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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


New Book Shows How Birds Help Gardens Naturally

July 28, 2009

“Red Bird, Green Bird: How Birds Help Us Grow Healthy Gardens”; June 2009; 6 x 9 in.; 92 pp.; ISBN: 978-1-59098-965-4; paperback; $12


WOOSTER, Ohio — The Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), the largest university agbioscience research center in the United States, has released Red Bird, Green Bird, a book that shows gardeners how birds help their plants, and do it naturally and organically.

It’s a retitled, completely reset edition of the 1912 classic Some Ohio Birds by Harry A. Gossard and Scott G. Harry of the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station (now OARDC).

It details the insects, rodents and weed seeds eaten by 91 common bird species — American crow to yellow-billed cuckoo, house wren to bobolink, cedar waxwing to turkey vulture — and describes their abundance nearly 100 years ago.

Birdwatchers should find it of interest. So should gardeners and farmers, especially organic ones.

“The place of birds in nature is entirely unique,” Gossard and Harry write. “Each species performs a service which no other can so well accomplish; each is structurally modified for the particular work nature demands of it.”

Their report of the eastern bluebird’s diet, for example, says, “Seventy-six percent consists of insects and other small animal forms; 24 percent is of vegetable substances, taken mostly in winter. Of the whole food, beetles constitute 28 percent, grasshoppers 22 percent and caterpillars 11 percent. Its only offense is the eating of a few beneficial beetles, amounting to 8 percent of its food for the entire year.”

Red Bird, Green Bird has 92 pages, is six by nine inches in size, and costs $12 plus $2 shipping.

Order by writing to CommTech, OSU/OARDC, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691 (make checks payable to Ohio State University/OARDC); or go to (click “Buy” then enter “Red Bird Green Bird” in the search box.

Call 330-263-3780 or e-mail for more information.

The chapters and their sections:

• “Green Land, Green Backs: How Birds Affect Us, How We Affect Birds”: the balance in nature; the destruction of forests; as destroyers of insects; their planting of seeds; as destroyers of rodents and noxious animals; as destroyers of weed seeds; as consumers of grain, valuable insects, fruits, buds, eggs and young of other birds.

• “More Birds, More Green: How to Attract Birds and Help Them Thrive”: water, seed and suet; winter cleanup; planting trees and shrubs for food; planting shelter belts for winter; nesting boxes and devices; drinking fountains and baths; protection from enemies; bird legislation; Audubon societies.

• “Birds in Ohio in 1912: Their Economic and Ecological Characteristics”: 31 groups of birds — including the wrens, thrushes, swallows, flycatchers, chickadees, woodpeckers, waterfowl, hawks and eagles, sparrows and finches, and blackbirds and their relatives — and accounts of such species as the barn owl, red-tailed hawk, northern cardinal, eastern meadowlark, American robin, American kestrel and ruby-throated hummingbird.

“Their mode of locomotion, together with their structural fitness for their natural functions, make birds a very important economic factor in the animal kingdom,” the authors write, “especially from the standpoint of their usefulness to man.”

Ohio State University Extension is the co-publisher.

OARDC ( and OSU Extension ( are the research and outreach arms, respectively, of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

OARDC, OSU Extension and The Wooster Book Company ( teamed up in 1999 to publish When Passenger Pigeons Flew in the Killbuck Valley: The Birds of Wayne County, Ohio, 1896, a new edition of a century-old OAES report by a then-young Harry C. Oberholser, who went on to a stellar career in ornithology.

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Kurt Knebusch