Strawberry Plains Audubon Center works with UM and Oxford to make city more bird-friendly


Anna Hawkins

In an effort to make Oxford a more bird-friendly city, Strawberry Plains Audubon Center of Holly Springs, the University of Mississippi and the city of Oxford have partnered to launch a Plants for Birds project designed to bring birds back to town.

The SPAC has led the project for three years, but received permission to break ground on the Ole Miss campus last spring at a demonstration site on Fraternity Row.

“This is a new and evolving initiative for Strawberry Plains,” said Mitch Robinson, SPAC conservation education manager, “and we are working with the city of Oxford and Ole Miss through several fronts and projects.

“Additionally, this is happening as the National Audubon Society is promoting the new Plants for Birds campaign, which focuses on incorporating native plants in home and community landscapes to create and enhance habitat for birds and other wildlife.”

After months of meetings in the Overby Center with students, the Office of Sustainability, landscaping services leaders, and university architects, the city of Oxford and UM decided to use campus land for a case study. A UM ornithology class and the SPAC planted 147 trees and shrubs in April with the help of volunteers and students.

The Plants for Birds campaign was created as an initiative to get people to plant native plants to give birds food and shelter, because over the past couple of years, bird habitats around the country have declined, and the National Audubon Society wants to bring birds back to communities.

This campaign supports planting small pots in the backyard to communities taking plots of land and turning large spaces into bird-friendly areas, such as the section off Fraternity Row on the Ole Miss campus.

The SPAC website reports that they will install herbaceous plugs as a green ground cover this fall at UM. The species included in phase one are Arrowood Viburnum, Oak-leaf Hydrangea, Pawpaw, American Fringtree, Redbud, Red Chokeberry and Red Buckeye.

Strawberry Plains Audubon Center has also worked with the city of Oxford to establish its own nature center. The Woodlawn-Davis Nature Center will be located in Oxford and will offer Oxford residents a park environment different from other community parks while providing education.


Ian Weaver, a sophomore at Ole Miss, believes the spot will be popular.

“This is going to be really big for Oxford,” he said. “I really am excited for this to be open, because it’s going to be a big attraction. This nature center will become very popular very fast, especially with the elementary and middle school field trips, especially if there is an educational component. I can’t wait for this to be finished. It’s such a great add-on to this community.”

With the new nature center and the Plants for Birds campaign, Oxford is working to become more environmentally friendly. Sophia Vidal, a UM freshmen, said she has been involved in the Plants for Birds campaign.

“My dad is really interested in birds and knows a lot about the different kinds,” she said. “I’ve actually learned a lot just by listening to my dad talk about them, so I have actually been involved in the Plants for Birds campaign. It truly is so sad to know that birds no longer live in certain communities because of the life quality. I fully support what the Audubon society is doing.”

UM sophomore Kameron Simpson also supports the project. 

“I had no idea that this was even going on,” Simpson said. “I’ve never been someone to know much about birds, but the fact that Oxford is doing this as a community and making an effort to have this city be bird-friendly is awesome. I might go check out Fraternity Row to see the site.”

With Audubon’s Native Plant Database on its official website, you can find the best plants for birds in your area. The organization said growing bird-friendly plants will attract and protect birds while making a space beautiful, easy to care for, and better for the environment.




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