Inside a solar-powered bird house near San Diego, it is possible to watch these fearless birds fly by. An accomplished engineer, a biologist and a farmer have built their first prototype into a solar-powered, self-sustaining habitat. No more cleaning and painting it every year. Soon they plan to have other farmers around the world use it as a model of easy, green farming.
The humble “ovenbird” — as it is nicknamed because it can be baked in a wall-socket — has won the full-throated support of a seasoned professional who is intimately acquainted with environmental trends and a line of research that would help farmers make their farms more environmentally friendly. “Look, if there is anything I can do to make sure these problems do not become even more visible and mired in people’s minds,” said Doug Baldridge, a former marine biologist turned entrepreneur, “then that is great, because I was supposed to be making animals more efficient.”
“There’s a lot of pain and suffering going on in some corners of these farms,” he continued. “But when you look at any number of species on the prairies, they do an incredible job of converting carbon dioxide into food. If you break it down further, they’re producing more oxygen and more photosynthesis. Just a species that looks at our world and says, ‘We can reduce that by not having as much decomposing poop, by building a lot of corals, by growing different types of fruit and vegetables, as well as fruits that absorb carbon.’ I love it. It’s just one of the things that I think kind of came naturally to me and says, ‘Hey, this is important.'”
So, who are these “self-sustaining” birds? Historically, hawks have been employed in this way, so it’s no surprise that at least one of them is a twit kasher. These majestic peregrine falcons look like they’re ready to attack a barn full of the grumpy muggles who picked the wrong Hogwarts house, but are quite capable of devouring a barn-size insect, for example.
Still, birds play a part in creating the food we eat. In the late 19th century, entomologists cataloged about 25 different species that make an array of traits that have become common to birds and fish, like preening their feathers during hunting, or preening their ears to give them flight. Why all that preening? There was, and still is, a huge interest in earwax, in the scientific community and in animal sciences. Because earwax is especially resilient, it is rich in protein and lipids, which are key building blocks for food, and present in the hundreds of tons of spit that an average crow bled during the course of a lunch break.