One of the bird pictures I took on a recent trip to Alaska was at Potter’s Marsh where a pair of Common Redpolls were collecting spider webs and dandelion down for nest building. This was a reminder of how important spiders are to birds, not only as a source of food but as an important source of nest-building material. Redpolls, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and many other species wrap their nest in spider silk. This holds the nest together while still being flexible enough to allow the nest to expand as the babies grow.
Spiders are an important indicator of the ecological health of your yard. If you see a spider web and not the spider, most likely a bird has already harvested it. If you have a yard where you do not see spider webs, this may be a sign that there are few native insects around for the spiders to eat. Native insects are a critical source of food birds as well, especially for nestlings in their silk-wrapped nests.
Many adults fear spiders and so bathe their lawns in pesticides. Overuse of pesticides threatens the health of spiders, insects, birds, and people. If you have arachnophobia, make an effort to overcome it knowing you’ll be making your yard more bird-friendly by doing so.
Posted with permission from Jerry W. Davis, Certified Wildlife Biologist, Hot Springs, AR.