Chirp, Cheep, Twitter, Tweet: the Surprising Link Between Birds & Human Health


Biodiversity, while healthy for the earth, is a real boon for human health, too. Take the West Nile virus, spread to humans by mosquitoes. It turns out that that the greater diversity of bird species in a region, the lower the amount of human West Nile virus cases.

You’d think the greater number of birds in a region will ensure that more mosquitoes get eaten, but that’s not what’s affecting the statistics. Some species of birds are particularly good hosts for the virus and that’s how the mosquitoes get infected. And it just turns out that the best avian hosts for West Nile virus are crows, jays, thrushes, sparrow and robins – the very same birds that move into an area after natural habitat is destroyed and a region’s native, diverse bird population is displaced and destroyed.

Information like this calls for changes in land management, and even small alterations can attract more diverse bird species. Biodiversity, more than just a catch phrase, is actually a public health service for humans. Clearly, the planet’s intertwined systems for maintaining balance and health are more complex than we ever imagined.

Image: Bill & Mavis