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The Ecological Role of Birds- Must Do

Essential Question: How do Birds Affect Other Species in an Ecosystem?

Phenomenon: Birds provide ecological services that


  • Give two examples of how birds provide services to other plants and animals in an ecosystem.
  • Define the term ecosystem services


  • Ecosystem Services
  • herbivores

Ecosystem Services

Birds play an important role in an ecosystem. Some are important because they pollinate plants so that flowers are fertilized and can produce new seed. They eat seeds and poop them out so that plants can grow in new areas. They can also act as scavengers returning nutrients into the ground to be recycled. These roles provide a service to other animals. Ecologists often refer to this as an ecosystem service. The following case studies are just two examples of how birds provide important services to other organisms in their ecosystem.

Case Study 1. Flamingos

Birds are fascinating to study because they are such world travelers. Birds that summer in Alaska come from every continent in the world. This makes birds an important link among ecosystems. Scientists all over the world study birds. Let’s meet some of those scientists and find out how birds connect ecosystems throughout the entire planet.

Marita Davison in Bolivia

Video Reflection Questions

1. What is Marita Studying? What is her research question(s)?

2. Why is she interested in excluding flamingos from parts of the lakes in her study?

Case Study 2 Clark’s Nutcrackers

In this next video, Taza is tracking Clark’s Nutcrackers to see what they eat, how far they move around to collect food, and how they socialize with each other. She wants to understand the birds dependence on plants and how insects affect that relationship.

Video Reflection Questions

1. What is the purpose of Taza’s research?

2. What will happen to the ecosystem if the pine trees disappear?

3. Why is the Clark’s nutcracker important to the ecosystem?

4. Why are scientists worried about this bird?

Complimentary Lesson plan – Discovering the Ecological Role of Birds, Crossing Boundaries. Available for free at


  • Birds play many important roles in an ecosystem. Plants depend on birds for dispersing their seeds and pollinating. The feeding habitats of birds can create habitats for other animals too.
  • When one organism does a job that helps other organisms in the community it is called a service. When we are studying ecosystems, we call them ecosystem services.


  1. What will happen to the pine trees if the Nutcrackers disappeared?
  2. How do flamingos affect the plant (phytoplankton) growth in a lake?
  3. Give an example of an ecosystem service provided by an Alaskan animal.

Explore More

Read the article, Birds & Ecosystem Services to help you answer the following questions (

1. The article lists four ways that birds can be of service to an ecosystem, explain all four methods and give an example of each one.