Bird Club offers landscape plans to help build bird numbers

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In response to the shocking report last week that bird populations in North America have fallen nearly 30% - or 3 billion birds - since the 1970s, the Sun City Bird Club is offering a concrete way to help.

In the report, published in the journal Science and reported on NationalGeographic.com, scientists identified habitat loss as a major factor, and recommended installing native plants as part of the solution.

The free landscape plans offered by the Bird Club make it easier for local residents to grow the native plants that local birds need.

Native plants are vital because they provide far more food for birds than imported plants. A national expert estimates that native plants produce four times more vegetation than alien species and support more than three times as many beneficial species of insects.

Insects are the principal food for birds from bluebirds to ruby-throated hummingbirds.

Native plants are the trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses that have always grown in this area - including such species as live oaks yaupon holly.

To raise one family of chicks, bluebird parents need to feed 8,000 insects to their nestlings. These insects are common on native trees, shrubs and other plants but are far less common on imported trees such as the Bartlett pear.

These plans are designed for the many small yards that are becoming common in the area. They show the homeowner precisely which plants can be installed at specific locations in their yards.

The plans can also be used as a landscaping base for larger yards. The four plans take into account the orientation of the house to the sun. They were developed with the assistance of the local Clemson Extension agent.

Almost all of the trees and shrubs, and most of flowers listed on these plans, are available from local nurseries. Inventory varies with season.

The other two recommended actions were to keep cats inside and install systems that protect birds from striking windows. Forty-four percent of the billion birds that die from window strikes hit residential windows.

To access the landscape plans, visit suncitybirdclub.org/native-plants. (Don't forget the hyphen in "native-plants.") Then follow the three steps to learn how to landscape your yard with native plants.

For horticultural information, contact Laura Lee Rose at 1-843-812-3490.

Jim Cubie is a member of the Sun City Bird Club and serves as its Native Plant Initiative coordinator.

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