Over the past fifty years, we have lost one third of the bird population in the North American continent. That is three billion birds! Three hundred and eighty- nine species of birds are currently on the edge of extinction. This is due to climate change, habitat loss and destruction, outdoor cats, bird-window collisions and chemical contamination by pesticides and herbicides.
Marion Audubon is active in our community, writing articles on conservation, and getting involved in new construction issues that impact our wildlife, always striving to preserve our precious natural resources.
The Ocala Wetland Recharge Park is a great example of Marion Audubon partnering with the city on new construction. We have been involved from the early planning stages, conducting a preliminary bird census, donating nest boxes and now providing guided nature walks to residents and visitors to help them better understand and enjoy the diverse wildlife all around us.
The Park is cleaning wastewater, providing a diverse habitat for birds, flora, and fauna, and providing a safe, interesting, and healthy outdoor exercise opportunity for our community.
What consider the most valuable function of the Park is the bird habitat. The Wetland Park provides a safe and nourishing habitat, free from chemicals, cats, and windows. It's an important step towards a community that understands the threats and takes steps to correct them. One Park at a time. One community at a time. One city at a time. We can grow this. We can save our birds.
Its hard to imagine our yards and gardens without the beautiful sounds of songbirds. But birds are not just a delightful byproduct of tending a garden; rather, they play important roles in maintaining the health of the plants we tend in our gardens and they help to keep the ecosystem in balance.
Gardeners can play an important role in attracting birds to their gardens and yards by growing the types of plants that birds need for food, shelter and nesting. Attracting birds to the garden or yard calls for more than just bird feeders and feed.
Birds are inextricably tied to the vegetation in their environment. They rely on plants for food ? including seeds, buds, berries, nectar, sap and fruit. They rely on plants for shelter from the weather and from predators. Birds also rely on plants for nesting sites and materials used to build their nests.
Native plants typically provide more food sources for birds than introduced species of plants. Native plants also offer more native insects for birds to feed on. Up to 96% of songbirds feed their babies insects, so it is important to grow native plants that will attract the insects that birds feed upon.
Benefits of birds in the garden It is hard to imagine having a beautiful and productive garden without birds. Birds eat and control insects that can harm many garden plants. Species such as bluebirds, cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, orioles and sparrows are known to be voracious feeders of various insects harmful to many plants. Birds can also play an important role in pollinating certain plants. In addition to hummingbirds, orioles and sunbirds are known for their ability to pollinate plants.
Birds can also help with weed control in the garden by eating weed seeds before they sprout. Finches, sparrows and towhees are known for consuming large numbers of seeds from many different plants. I just wish that I could interest them in the thistles in my garden!
A variety of plants needed Many different types and species of plants are needed to attract and support a variety of songbirds to the garden or yard. Conifers provide cover, winter shelter and summer nesting sites. Some also provide buds, seeds and sap. Grasses provide cover for ground-nesting birds as well as seeds. Nectar-producing plants such as fuchsia, bee balm and coral bells attract birds such as hummingbirds and orioles.
Summer-fruiting plants such as serviceberry, honeysuckle, raspberry, cherry and grape attract robins, thrushes, waxwings, woodpeckers, orioles, cardinals and other birds. Fall-fruiting plants such as dogwoods, mountain ash, winterberry and cotoneasters provide food for migratory birds preparing to leave and nonmigratory birds preparing for winter. Nut and acorn trees such as oaks, hickories, buckeyes, chestnuts, butternuts and walnuts provide food and nesting habitat.
Feeders and bird baths important, too Placing bird feeders and bird baths in the garden will help attract birds to the plants in your garden. The value of bird baths and other water sources is often overlooked, but bird baths will attract more birds than a bird feeder will. Water sources should be provided and maintained year-round. Brush piles or even dead trees left standing will provide shelter and nesting habitat for certain birds and will harbor insects that birds feed upon.
The Audubon Society has an excellent searchable database of native plants that attract and support birds. Gardeners can search by ZIP code to see which plants are best for attracting specific species of birds. The database can be found at: audubon.org/native-plants.
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