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President's Message: February 2023

Plant Natives to Help Birds

One thing that we know is that habitat is critical for life. Our habitats make us comfortable and content. We all seek a home that fits our needs for safety, space, and neighborhood – near our work, family and friends. Those things are important to us.

For animals and birds, it’s the same. Birds’ needs are pretty easily determined: sites that offer food and water, cover or open space, depending on their lifestyles, and a night-time roost (or day-time, if you're talking about an owl or night heron!).

Regionally, we are experiencing tremendous human population growth. The Tampa-Orlando area is growing faster than any other region in the United States. This means woods, fields and landscapes are being converted to human use at a prodigious rate. So, if you have an opportunity to provide habitat for birds and other wildlife, you should do it!

The way to start is to plant native plants. Native plants survive best in Hillsborough County and provide the food (berries, flowers and insects) that our birds need.

The first step is to consider your home’s original ecotype. Was it piney flatwoods, oak hammock, shoally river sand, scrubby shrub forest or prairie? Your soil type will determine plant survival more than anything else.

How much of your yardscape is shady and sunny? Now, select the plants that will grow in your soils and the sun levels in your yard. You’ll want layers of plants – short-growing ones backed by taller ones to create a visually appealing space you’ll love. Choose colors that blend. You’ll find that native plants offer a huge selection to satisfy the most discriminating of gardeners. Now that you have a plan, go to a native plant nursery and tell them what you need. Home Depot and Lowe's don’t provide native plants.

Newly installed natives need a bit of special care, so water them while their roots expand into the surrounding soil. Deep mulching will help with weeding and keep your chores to a minimum. Retain some brushy areas, and if you have a snag that isn’t a hazard to cars or house, WOWOW! No gardening comes without some effort, but your work will be amply rewarded.

Add a water feature, whether bird bath or little pond, especially if you can include some running water. Provide trees and bushes for easy access to safe landing zones near feeders and water features.

Now enjoy – especially with the knowledge that you have helped the wildlife of our county, our state, our nation and our world. Congratulations!

For more information, visit:

Florida Native Plant Society publications

Florida Native Plant Nursery Association

Suncoast Native Plant Society


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