News From the Farm | July 18, 2016

Several months ago we reported on a bird diversity survey being done here at Full Belly Farm by researchers from Washington State University. They are interested in understanding bird species diversity on farms and how the layout of farms and landscapes affects birds. They just completed their second survey and one of the researchers shared her thoughts: 

“Full Belly had the highest diversity index of the California farms for both surveys. (I haven’t calculated it for Washington and Oregon farms yet and will do this once we survey them again.) Full Belly also had very high species evenness without any particular species really dominating. Interestingly, the Capay Valley farms all had high evenness. I’m planning to explore further how the surrounding landscape is affecting the species we find on the farms and what the potential implications of this are.

“There were about 1.25 times more birds observed in our first survey (in early May). There were four more species in survey 1, but a lot were migrants using Full Belly as a stop-over site to refuel (cedar waxwings, black-headed grosbeaks, and American goldfinches).

“I observed American robins, brown-headed cowbirds, black phoebes, Brewer’s blackbirds, Cassin’s kingbirds, house sparrows, lesser goldfinches, red-winged blackbirds, and western bluebirds in row crop fields. Hopefully we will have some results by next field season from our diet analysis to see who is controlling pests. Brewer’s blackbirds have been cited as good crop pest control agents, and lesser goldfinches have been cited to eat lice. I’m sure the brown-headed cowbirds are doing a good job eating pests off the sheep and cows.

“Now the important stuff: birds I saw that were super cool. The second coolest sighting was a California thrasher by the river. The coolest sighting by far was a golden eagle I walked up on just finishing eating another bird. It was in the hay field the cows just moved out of into the brassica patch.

Thank you again for allowing us to survey Full Belly!”

— Olivia M. Smith, Washington State University