Landscapes can be created as bird habitats

Richard Bogren, Young, John, Gill, Daniel J., Owings, Allen D.  |  11/21/2009 2:59:06 AM

News Release Distributed 11/27/09

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Allen Owings and John Young

There is a gardening philosophy that is becoming increasingly influential in American gardens. Often called sustainable gardening, the concept involves native plant materials well adapted to the local environments, reduced pesticide use, reduced maintenance and an attempt to create a more natural habitat rather than a decorative garden.

Inviting wildlife into the landscape is an important part of sustainable gardening, and hummingbird gardens are fairly common in Louisiana. As new subdivisions reduce the amount of available habitat, inviting other types of birds becomes increasingly important. Although Louisiana gardeners often provide birds with food and water, shelter and nesting sites should not be overlooked. Difficulty in finding natural shelter near the food and water sources you supply may tempt birds to look elsewhere for a more promising environment. If you can provide a place for birds to nest, you’ll have the pleasure of seeing them frequently at close range and the advantage of allies in controlling insects.

If you’re interested in creating a garden habitat that welcomes birds, “Attracting Birds to Southern Gardens,” by Thomas Pope, Neil Odenwald and Charles Fryling Jr., Taylor Publishing, $24.95 hardcover, will tell you how.

This book provides detailed information on creating beautifully planted bird habitats especially for the South – habitats that help replace the natural ones that have been disappearing and continue to disappear. A habitat can be as simple as placing a rustic feeder in your backyard or creating a container hummingbird garden on an apartment balcony. Or it can be as complete as designing a formal garden with a balanced arrangement of plants or planning a more naturalistic, wild habitat full of native Southern plants.

The book contains extensive information on 69 birds that frequent and feed in our state. The section on plant materials that provide nesting sites and food for birds is outstanding, and the color photographs and descriptions are excellent. Other sections include landscape plans and information on birdbaths, feeders and the proper seed mixes to attract the birds you want.

The chapter by J.V. Remsen Jr. on common myths about Southern birds is particularly fascinating. Did you know, for instance, no evidence supports the idea that the first purple martins to arrive are “scouts” that inform the rest of the population concerning suitability of nesting conditions? According to Remsen, as far as anyone knows, the first birds to arrive do not return south to the main population and lead them to nesting sites here.

What makes this book particularly useful is that the authors are Louisianans. Tom Pope, Ph.D., a retired specialist with the LSU AgCenter, has written more than 40 publications on gardening in Louisiana. Neil Odenwald, Ph.D., is a retired professor of landscape architecture at LSU and author of “Southern Plants” and “Live Oak Splendor.” Charles Fryling Jr. is a professor of landscape architecture at LSU and past president of the Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Baton Rouge Audubon Society.

This is a book that is extremely useful to all Louisiana gardeners with an interest in creating bird habitats and sustainable landscaping. With holiday gift giving right around the corner, it would also make a welcome present.

Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is located near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.louisianahouse.org and www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.

Rick Bogren
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