For the Birds: Regenerating the Campus Forest Could Improve the Bird Community

It’s no secret that the stretch of Olentangy River running through campus is an eyesore.  With 10 feet of Honeysuckle-dominated forest on the west side, grass and stone on the east side, and nameless debris flowing downstream, it hardly ranks as an “Ohio Scenic River.”  The OSU Framework Plan outlines the regeneration of a forest strip on both sides of the river throughout campus.  While the purpose of this forest is to reduce runoff going into the river, it could also greatly benefit the local bird community.

Bikers and joggers on the bike path might notice that the only birds found on the east bank of the river are Canada geese, blackbirds and robins. A properly managed forest could potentially invite over a hundred species of forest birds to campus, bringing bird watchers, naturalists and students to the bike path in tow.

The Olentangy River corridor: Management intended for resident species (light blue), short-distance migrants (dark blue), and long-distance migrants (orange).

The problem with most urban bird communities is that city pressures drive out a host of long-distance migratory species while resident and exotic species thrive. With the proper management of tree/shrub composition, corridor width and invasive plants, this new forest can become a valuable stopover and breeding habitat for migratory birds.

Indigo bunting, a long-distance migrant. Image courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Human enjoyment of these summer visitors could be aided with the development of additional walking paths, feeder stations, nest boxes and signage. Inviting a more diverse bird community could bring people together at Ohio State, and it sends a clear message that conservation is just as important to sustainability as recycling or clean energy.

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