243: John Rowden on Planting for Birds.

Determining which plants are best for specifically local ecosystems.

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John joined Audubon in 2009 when he was hired by the New York City chapter to direct citizen science and outreach throughout the city.   In 2013, he transitioned to the National Audubon Society, first working on the Toyota TogetherGreen program before becoming Audubon’s Director of Community Conservation in 2016.

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John’s work at Audubon has focused on engaging new audiences in the organization’s conservation efforts, personally and through Audubon’s extensive national network. He holds a PhD in Zoology from Duke University.

In This Podcast:

We learn a little bit more about a national resource for nature lovers from John Rowden from the National Audubon Society as he talks about their new database for native plants. It makes a lot of sense that native plants would be appreciated by birds, and John shares how the interaction between plants and birds can be enhanced and appreciated by anyone willing to grow a plant in their area.


Listen in and learn about:

  • Working on his PhD studying the behavior of parrots in Australia
  • His work to engage people in conservation work
  • Learning how to work better with nature
  • A short history on The Audubon Society
  • Flyways, how the Society works to protect them and connect groups along them
  • The connection between plants and birds – why plants are so important in so many ways for birds
  • Caterpillars – the nemeses of most gardeners and a crucial food source for birds
  • Plant origin and why that matters to insects and therefore birds
  • A compelling argument for more native plants in your area and gardens
  • The multiple layers to the database and including how native plants help birds
  • Audubon’s Native Plant Database resource to find what native plants are local based on zip codes
  • Seed Bombs and what they are and how to make them
  • Talking about pigeons and other common birds – why they are so important and why he defends these birds
  • How the diversity in native plants can help local pollinators crucial for local ecosystems
  • What space is needed to help plant for these flyways
  • Phoenix Local resources for local ecosystem support

As well as:

  • His failure – A challenge working to gather plant information for the national native plant database and running into hugely varied climate zones in the original data grouping
  • His success – The team effort to get the national native plant database working and the feedback showing they are meeting the challenge
  • His drive – Conservation, and trying to leave the world in a better way than the way he got it
  • His advice – Any little bit helps, jump in and participate

John’s Book recommendations:   

Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, Updated and Expanded – by Douglas Tallamy

How to reach The Audubon Society:

Audubon website: Audubon.org Native Plant Database: www.audubon.org/plantsforbirds


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