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Gardening is for the birds

By CORINNE BOREL
cborel@umaryland.edu

Many residents of Mount Washington chose to live in the neighborhood because it is lush, green, and shaded by grand trees, and has diverse landscaping. One of the benefits of these attributes is frequent sightings of goldfinches, cardinals, owls, hawks, and even bald eagles.

Bird on branch

Mount Washington is located on the Atlantic Flyway, part of a veritable superhighway system upon which birds migrate thousands of miles. (For more information on this topic, go to birdnature.) Some birds use the stars for navigation and heavily lighted cities can disorient and exhaust them, forcing them to land in this heavily paved region.

Birds have a food pyramid just as we do. Insects are a critical part of this, along with nuts and seeds, berries, and nectar.

While most people cringe at bugs, they are an essential part of the web of life. A bird can feed as many as 7,000 caterpillars to their young in two weeks. Think of caterpillars as spaghetti, packed with protein and soft and easy for baby birds to swallow. Berries can also provide critical fat calories for birds.

Alien plant species, however, provide no food for local insects. Without caterpillars, other insects, nuts, berries, and nectar, birds can die or not be able to sustain their families.

It can be immediately gratifying and enjoyable to make a garden hummingbird- and butterfly-friendly and feed various pollinators, thereby supporting local birds. Maintaining native tree cover and wildlife habitat is not only good for sustaining birds using tremendous amounts of energy migrating along the Atlantic Flyway, but also those residents with mercantile interests. All this greenery and mature tree cover enhances home and neighborhood values.

Homes do present one other potential hazard, however, as birds may strike against windows. The Creative Alliance, a nonprofit that promotes the arts, has put a permanent installation in one of its windows to show an attractive alteration so that birds do not fly into them and get injured.

Priority Bird Species

Conservation efforts are needed to enhance the populations of five iconic or depleted bird species traveling through Baltimore on the Atlantic Flyway:

  1. Baltimore oriole
  2. Chimney swift
  3. Wood thrush
  4. American woodcock
  5. Black-throated blue warbler

Go to Patterson Park Audubon Center to see pictures and hear their songs.

Source: Patterson Park Audubon Center

Recommend Trees to Plant

Source: Patterson Park Audubon Center

Shrubs to Plant

Source: Patterson Park Audubon Center