May 2019: Royann Petrell: Gardening for Birds

April 15th, 2019

Dr. Royann Petrell and her husband, Sylvain Alie, have organically gardened to produce most of the food they have eaten over the last 24 years. Gardening was a wonderful place to unwind from stressful jobs and for these two birders to enjoy their hobby.

To date, in and around their garden, they have recorded 81 species of birds. Several bird species nest there while dining on the garden pests.

Today Royann, now professor emerita from Chemical and Biological Engineering, UBC, is making plans to attract four new birds (the purple martin, tree swallow, bullock’s oriole and the marsh wren) to her garden. She employs her knowledge gained in biological science and through a long career as a research bio-engineer in
habitat protection. Flower gardens can be wonderful habitat for birds. Small gardens are a challenge for nesting birds as their needs are many. Royann will describe what it takes for a bird to rear a successful brood in general, and then, show what a flower garden would look like for this to happen for three different type of bird species: a larvae eating warbler, a pesky-bug eating sparrow, and pollinating Rufous hummingbird.

The numbers of birds are declining rapidly around the world. Royann feels that making small changes to how one gardens would not only help restore bird populations and reduce pest numbers but would bring added joy to the gardening experience.