Thursday, March 13, 2008

Native Plants Best For Nesting Birds

From Birders World

A friend in southwestern Ohio has a habitat problem. Over the years the old field behind her house has grown into a dense monoculture of exotic Eurasian honeysuckle (Lonicera xylosteum, L. tatarica). She longs for the American Goldfinches, Eastern Towhees, and Indigo Buntings she remembers from childhood. But the honeysuckle is so unappealing that most birds avoid it. A state wildlife consultant recommended bulldozing the 10 acres and cultivating native grasses, herbaceous plants, shrubs, and trees to provide multi-layered nesting cover.

We often grow food plants that attract birds and small wildlife, but well-rounded backyard habitats also need good nest sites. Many birds have very specific nesting requirements. Meadowlarks, as their name implies, inhabit meadows. They use grasses to weave ground-level nests. Chestnut-sided Warblers conceal their nests a couple feet off the ground, usually in tangles of briars. Gray Catbirds weave strips of grapevine bark into their nests, placed head-high in dense thickets, while American Goldfinches build in the upper forks of deciduous trees, and line their nests with thistle down.

Plants from other continents have been imported for the nursery trade or are introduced accidentally when their seeds avoid detection. Some, such as tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima) in the East, and eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.) and Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) in the West, can crowd out natives, turning diverse plant communities into monocultures.

Read the entire article.

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