Saturday, May 14, 2011



Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (1962), chapter 8 (And No Birds Sing):
The feeding habits of all these birds not only make them especially vulnerable to insect sprays but also make their loss a deplorable one for economic as well as less tangible reasons. The summer food of the white-breasted nuthatch and the brown creeper, for example, includes the eggs, larvae, and adults of a very large number of insects injurious to trees. About three quarters of the food of the chickadee is animal, including all stages of the life cycle of many insects. The chickadee's method of feeding is described in Bent's monumental Life Histories of North American birds: "As the flock moves along each bird examines minutely bark, twigs, and branches, searching for tiny bits of food (spiders' eggs, cocoons, or other dormant insect life)."

Various scientific studies have established the critical role of birds in insect control in various situations. Thus, woodpeckers are the primary control of the Engelmann spruce beetle, reducing its populations from 45 to 98 percent and are important in the control of the codling moth in apple orchards. Chickadees and other winter-resident birds can protect orchards against the cankerworm.
Aristophanes, Birds 1058-1071 (sung by the birds, tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
To me, the omniscient
and omnipotent, shall all mortals
now sacrifice with pious prayers.
For I keep watch over all the earth,
and keep safe the blooming crops
by slaying the brood of all species
of critters, who with omnivorous jaws
devour all that in soil sprouts from the pod
and the fruit of the trees where they perch;
and I slay those who spoil fragrant gardens
with defilements most offensive;
and upon creepers and biters every one
from the force of my wing
comes murderous destruction.
The same, tr. Benjamin Bickley Rogers:
Unto me, the All-controlling,
Now will men, at every altar,
Prayers be praying;
Me who watch the land, protecting
Fruit and flower,
Slay the myriad-swarming insects
Who the tender buds devour
In the earth and on the branches with a never-satiate malice,
Nipping off the blossom as it widens from the chalice.
And I slay the noisome creatures
Which consume
And pollute the garden's freshly scented bloom;
And every little biter, and every creeping thing
Perish in destruction at the onset of my wing.
The Greek:
ἤδη ᾽μοὶ τῷ παντόπτᾳ
  καὶ παντάρχᾳ θνητοὶ πάντες
  θύσουσ᾽ εὐκταίαις εὐχαῖς.
πᾶσαν μὲν γὰρ γᾶν ὀπτεύω,
  σῴζω δ᾽ εὐθαλεῖς καρποὺς
κτείνων παμφύλων γένναν
  θηρῶν, ἃ πάν τ᾽ ἐν γαίᾳ
ἐκ κάλυκος αὐξανόμενον γένυσι παμφάγοις
  δένδρεσί τ᾽ ἐφημένα καρπὸν ἀποβόσκεται.
κτείνω δ᾽ οἳ κήπους εὐώδεις
  φθείρουσιν λύμαις ἐχθίσταις·
ἑρπετά τε καὶ δάκετα <πάνθ᾽> ὅσαπερ
  ἔστιν, ὑπ᾽ ἐμᾶς πτέρυγος
  ἐν φοναῖς ὄλλυται.

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