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Mrs. Dutchess County highlights the value of birds in our environment

August 20, 2018 11:35 am

RHINEBECK — Dr. Jackie Berry holds the title of Mrs. Dutchess County and will be competing for the title of Mrs. New York America at the Rochester Inn and Conference center on March 31, 2019. The winner of the Mrs. New York America pageant goes on to compete in the Mrs. America competition held in Las Vegas the following August.

“I’m super excited to compete in the Mrs. New York America pageant next Spring and as a local titleholder I am even more excited to share my passion for birds and to shine my light on their incredible environmental impact,” said Berry.

Why Birds? 2018 is a critical year for noting the environmental impact of birds in particular because of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) which was originally passed in 1918. The National Audubon Society counts this as one of their first major victories with the lives of millions, or even billions, of birds being saved as a result. In partnership with National Geographic, BirdLife International, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Audubon Society has declared 2018 to be the “Year of the Bird” to mark the centennial anniversary of this landmark legislation.

According to Dr. Berry: “I don’t think people really understand how crucial birds are to our basic health. Crops that can be grown in the shade, for example, need fewer, if any, dangerous pesticides because birds eat those insects. Big, tall trees prevent soil erosion, and protect our drinking water, and the birds who live in them are often the main factor that keeps them healthy.”

Lyme Disease Connection

Increasing the urgency is the unfortunate fact that Dutchess County New York has one of the highest rates of Lyme disease in the entire country. Lyme disease is caused by tick bites and along with the short-term complications that come with the disease, chronic, longer-term neurological complications are quite common. According to the Cary Institute of Ecosystems, a scientific research group located in Dutchess County, mice contribute more to the spread of Lyme disease than deer in the Northeast. A single mouse can be carrying 100 ticks and unlike deer they can get in your house.

“I want to be able to send my kid outside in his own backyard without worrying about ticks constantly. That’s a right everyone should have but here in Dutchess County we have a problem.” - Dr. Berry

Hawks and Birds of Prey

Berry believes that supporting birds and their habitat is one solution to control the tick population.

According to Jackie: “At Oregon State University, and in other places, they have programs to use Birds of Prey for rodent control. This is wonderful because it means that having a bird-friendly yard will attract Red Tail Hawks, owls, and other predators who eat mice.”

Simple things will attract birds like keeping natural-looking shrubs and planting native species. Adding nest-boxes and keeping tall trees also helps. Birds tend to prefer a more natural landscape with minimal lawn area. This also means less mowing further saving on energy consumption.

Jackie says: “Having a bird-friendly yard is a beautiful solution to a troublesome problem. My family and I also love looking at all the birds that come to our feeders and birdbath. And they sound glorious!”

The Mrs. America Pageant

The Mrs. America pageant highlights the accomplishments of married women around the country and celebrates their contributions to the community. The longest standing pageant for married women, the pre-World War II beauty competition was first held in the mid 1930’s and has existed in its current form since 1977. The winner goes on to compete in the Mrs. World pageant which is considered the most prestigious international pageant title for married women to hold. The Mrs. America competition is currently underway with finals taking place on August 25th beginning at to 8pm Eastern.

About Mrs. Dutchess County

Dr. Jackie Berry is a research faculty member at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy where she studies learning and expertise. She and husband Chris, who works as a computer engineer for IBM in Poughkeepsie, live in Red Hook with their son.

“I plan to be at the Fair educating people about the role of birds and how they stop diseases like West Nile virus and Lyme disease, both of which are a problem in our area. I can’t wait!” says Jackie.

For more information about the National Audubon Society interested parties may visit For more information about the Mrs. New York America and Mrs. America pageants interested parties may visit and