11/9/2013 4:15:00 PM Creating a landscape that will attract birdsresidents
By Keith Reed
Bird watching is a favorite activity with over 50 million Americans self-reporting themselves to be bird watchers. Payne County residents are in good shape when it comes to great areas for bird watching. Think water and you'll generally have a good bird watching spot. From the Cimarron River to the south, to Cushing Lake to the east, to Sooner Lake to the north and Lakes Carl Blackwell and McMurtry to the west, we're covered.
While these are indeed great spots (as are many others around the area), a bird watcher (birder) does not have to leave home to enjoy the beauty of birds. With a bit of planning and preparation, almost any landscape can be made more welcoming to our feathered friends.
Birds need three things to prosper; food, water, and shelter. Water is critical, especially as we enter the winter months, where free surface water might not be as plentiful. Proper preparation and care with your landscape plans can really aid in having a dynamic bird population in the neighborhood. Plants provide not only food, but shelter, so it is important to consider several factors when choosing plant material.
As in all things, diversity aids in success. A variety of tree species gives the various populations several nesting and shelter options. For example, a Northern Red oak tree might provide an idea nesting site with its height offering protection from ground dwelling predators, but not providing winter protection. A Southern Magnolia's leaves make it difficult to be of much value for nesting purposes, but those same evergreen leaves make an excellent wind break during a cold winter. Even dead or decaying trees have their place in a landscape managed to favor birds as several species nest in the decaying trunks. Just remember that dead trees can easily become a significant safety hazard as they deteriorate and fall.
Shrubs function much like trees for birds that prefer to live and play a bit closer to the ground. Native shrubs such as beauty berry are good choices as they are commonly found in our native forests and offer supplemental food with the winter berries. Possum haw is another native shrub that offers berries throughout the winter. Annuals and perennials are also important to the plan. Not only do some of these plants provide food directly, they also draw a variety of insects which in turn, serve as valuable food sources.
OSU has an excellent resource that offers dozens of plant suggestions that support bird populations as well as containing other helpful information on promoting birds in the landscape. See Fact Sheet # 6435 HLA-Landscaping and Gardening for Birds for more information.
For more information of this or any other horticultural topic, you can contact Keith Reed, the Horticulturist in the Payne County Extension office. Keith can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone at 405-747-8320, or in person at the Payne County Extension office, located at 315 W. 6th in Stillwater.