Important new bird gardening book

Especially for South Florida

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


“Attracting Birds to South Florida Gardens” by James S. Kushlan and Kirsten Hines, could not arrive at a better moment. One in eight – 1,300 bird species – are threatened with extinction, according to Bird Life International. South Florida, on the migration path of many songbirds, exemplifies the reasons: habitat loss, climate change, chemical toxins in fields and waterways top a long list of injuries to the avian world.

With the disappearance of our pine rockland, evergreen hammocks and the ecological disruption of century-old drainage canals, the region has seen its once magnificent bird populations plummet.  Migratory songbirds are especially vulnerable to habitat loss in South Florida as they search for food on their flights to and from South America, sometimes spending 15 hours over open water. Undernourished, they struggle to make the journey to their nesting grounds, lay fewer eggs and fledge fewer young. The next time you fly into MIA at night, look down at the lights and imagine you are a bird trying to find a near-shore resting spot, some insects or berries on which to feed.

There is a remedy, and the Kushlan/Hines gardening book -- specifically for South Florida – can serve as a master class. The writers/photographer not only tell you about our birds – what they eat, where they nest, what time of year they are here – they devote equal attention to the plants, how big or small they are, when they flower, what birds will benefit from the fruit or insects on the plants, if they need shade or sun and what birds utilize them.

Additionally, they emphatically explain what not to do (annoy the neighbors, use pesticides, allow cats in the garden), including what not to plant (it would be ideal to have thumbnail photos of the invasive plants included) and what to carefully monitor.

Butterflies and wildlife are included, even a thoughtful discussion on the Ethics of Bird Feeding. Exotic birds are found in these pages, as many flourish in our area. There are reminders to retain dead tree snags for cavity-nesting birds, utilize grasses for the insects they contain and the cover they provide, and give careful consideration to using impatiens in winter because of high water requirements.

Published by the University Press of Florida, the book’s format is clean and nicely laid out, making it easy to use. References are generously provided for gardening, bird conservation, South Florida plants, South Florida birds, and South Florida wildlife.

“Attracting Birds to South Florida Gardens” in an indispensible reference for every area gardener. And should top the Christmas/Hanukah gift lists for friends who need to know.