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Tue, Oct. 22

Birding: wild birds and native plants are inextricably connected

Courier Columnist Eric Moore.

Courier Columnist Eric Moore.

I am frequently invited to do speaking engagements where I talk on the subject of landscaping to make one’s yard bird-friendly.    

With all of the new development that we are seeing on the north end of Prescott, as well as in Prescott Valley, I have to admit it saddens me to see the tactics used by some of the developers.  Historically, this kind of development has not been a part of our community, but now it is becoming more commonplace.

What kind of development am I referring to?  The practice of using earthmovers and other heavy equipment to remove one hundred percent of the native vegetation — leaving nothing but bare dirt prior to the construction of both infrastructure and homes. At my speaking engagements, I ask the rhetorical question, “If a bulldozer came and knocked down your house, could you still live there?”

The answer, of course, is “no.”  The same can be said for all of the naturally occurring birds, lizards, snakes, mammals and insects that lived in these areas where all of the native habitat has been bulldozed to oblivion.    

Ironically, in these developments, when the homes are finished, landscapers are brought in to beautify the development — using decorative rock and non-native trees and shrubs.  They would have been much better off if they had left the original native vegetation that grew there naturally.

This type of development that we are beginning to see in the Prescott and Prescott Valley areas is more typical of large-scale developments seen down in the valley.  To me, it is not the ‘Prescott way.’  We have had a long tradition of development that has been more environmentally sensitive — carving out a pad just big enough to build a home without removing all of the native habitat.

When I consider some of the older neighborhoods in Prescott I am very impressed with the beauty of these areas, such as Timber Ridge, Forest Trails, Haisley, Hidden Valley and The Ranch at Prescott, to name a view. By and large, the developers of these subdivisions have retained the native plants that existed there prior to development — only removing what was necessary to build roads and homes. 

You might be wondering, “Why are native plants important?  What’s the big deal if you have a yard full of decorative rocks?” As a nature lover, I value the benefits of native plants. Native plants are drought tolerant — no watering is necessary.  They are disease resistant — you don’t have to use any pesticides in your yard.  They don’t require fertilizing — no need to apply chemicals in your yard.  A yard full of plants is much cooler — rocks absorb and radiate heat back into the environment.

As I share my passion for native plants with audiences, I encourage homeowners to take action — to try and restore their yard to a natural environment. You might wonder where to begin. My suggestion is to find the closest vacant, undisturbed lot near your home, and go and do a plant survey.

What grows there naturally?  Is there manzanita?  What about mountain mahogany? Are there pinyons and junipers and scrub oak? Determine what kinds of plants have lived for millennia in your neighborhood, and re-introduce these plants into your yard to create an inviting habitat for amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds, and insects.

I invite you to stop by the store to vote for your favorite pictures in our wild bird photography contest. Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to make your selections!  We will announce the winners at noon, on Saturday, Oct. 26, at our anniversary celebration.

Until next week, Happy birding!

Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with two locations in northern Arizona — Prescott and Flagstaff.  Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at eric@jaysbirdbarn.com. 

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