Laurel Oak: Bring on the Birds

From Winter 2010: Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus) shows comraderie with a Blue Jay in the branches of my Laurel Oak
From Winter 2010: Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus) shows comraderie with a Blue Jay in the branches of my Laurel Oak

I have been enjoying quite a show of avian wildlife visitors to my bird-planted Oak tree that is in full view of my dining area windows as well as the small outdoor patio.   It is providing endless entertainment especially between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.  That seems to be a favorite time for the gang to show up.

It has a nice symmetrical crown
It has a nice symmetrical crown (from February 2013)

Laurel Oak (Quercus laurifolia) is a fast growing tree that can achieve a height of 60 to 70 feet with a spread of 35 to 45 feet.  Also known as Darlington or Diamond Oak, it has a dense, symmetrical crown and is semi-evergreen. Mine loses it leaves slowly in January as the new leaves appear so the tree is never completely bare.

This photo was taken in 2006 so you can see it grew quite a bit compared to the photo above from 2013.
This photo was taken in 2006 so you can see it grew quite a bit compared to the photo above from 2013.

One drawback is its relatively short life span of 50 to 70 years.  Easily propagated by seed as is evident at my place where I find saplings growing here and there, planted by birds and mammals that enjoy the bounty of acorns and insect delectables that this tree produces.

Large acorns are a favorite of many Florida birds and mammals.
Large acorns are a favorite of many Florida birds and mammals.

Oaks in general are wildlife attractants since they are “…important food source for many animals, including white-tailed deer, raccoon, squirrels, wild turkey, ducks, quail, smaller birds, and rodents.  Swamp laurel oak ranked second in quantity and frequency of acorns consumed by wild turkey in Florida.”

Larval host for the Southern Pink-striped Oakworm (Anisota virginiensis pellucida)
Larval host for the Southern Pink-striped Oakworm (Anisota virginiensis pellucida)

They are larval hosts for many insect species including Horaces Duskywing (Erynnis horatius) and White M Hairstreak (Parrhasius m-album) butterflies.  That, in turn, draws in the birds that rely on these proteins, especially during nesting season given that baby birds can’t eat seeds.

I decided to take a look back at a number of birds who have visited this particular oak in my landscape.

From January 2017: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)
From January 2017: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

 

From October 2013: American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
From October 2013: American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
From February 2015: Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)
From February 2015: Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) dancing among the catkins
From September 2013: Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) snagging an acorn
From September 2013: Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) snagging an acorn

 

From May 2014: Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) NESTING
From May 2014: Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) NESTING

 

From June 2013: Common Ground-Dove (Columbina passerina)
From June 2013: Common Ground-Dove (Columbina passerina) NESTING

 

From February 2015: Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula
From February 2015: Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula munching on an invasive Cuban Treefrog

 

From April 2016: Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius)
From April 2016: Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius)

 

From January 2012: Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla)
From January 2012: Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla)

 

From March 2014: Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)
From March 2014: Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

 

From March 2016: Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
From March 2016: Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

 

From November 2012: Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)
From November 2012: Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)

 

From March 2011: Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) rests on a topped Pine snag in front of the Oak where it has nested.
From March 2011: Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) rests on a topped Pine snag in front of the Oak where it has nested.

 

From March 2014: Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum)
From March 2014: Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum)

 

From February 2011: Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronatagal)
From February 2011: Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronatagal)

This oak is tolerant of wet sites so if you have an area with seasonal flooding, it will happily stand up to the inundation.

Select references:

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Publication #ENH-707.

Florida Native Plant Society http://www.fnps.org/

Wunderlin, R. P., B. F. Hansen, A. R. Franck, and F. B. Essig. 2017. Atlas of Florida Plants (http://florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/).[S. M. Landry and K. N. Campbell (application development), USF Water Institute.] Institute for Systematic Botany, University of South Florida, Tampa.

Carey, Jennifer H. 1992. Quercus hemisphaerica, Q. laurifolia. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].  U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [2017, February 10].

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5 thoughts on “Laurel Oak: Bring on the Birds”

  1. Great array of bird species using your laurel oak! (And impressive that you were able to capture photos of them all, too.) We have several larger laurel oaks in our yard and I’m torn between enjoying the wildlife they attract and getting frustrated by their short life span. There are many sand live oaks in our neighborhood, too, and I’m hoping to get a few of those established, even though I know that I won’t live long enough to see them really become impressive and beautiful trees.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I view my laurel oak as a tree that will eventually provide warm fires during those brief florida cold spells for whoever lives here after me. Since the birds planted it must be part of mom nature’s plan. As always, thanks for your kind comments and adding to the conversation

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      1. A healthy way to look at them, I guess, but I’m also balancing the fact that our neighborhood is “special” because of the wonderfully picturesque sand live oaks, but no one is encouraging a younger generation of those oaks to grow up and replace the current generation. As I understand it, laurel oaks will overshadow and cause the sand live oaks to decline, so I’m performing a gardener’s editing role by trying to select for the young sand live oaks.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. An interesting point. The sand live oaks were selected to remain when this area was developed in the late 1960’s. There WERE pines here, but most of them were taken down. I’m not sure what ecosystem, exactly, this little area was before development, but I’d love to know so that I can be sure to try to return some of the original pieces of the ecosystem to our landscape.

        Liked by 1 person

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