In Baie-D’Urfé, and in other similar towns blessed with lots of trees, we often speak of the importance of our trees. This extract from an excellent book about urban nature, speaks to that understanding and explains why providing small, replacement trees (“oh, they will get big in a few years”) are not a good excuse for felling mature trees: …

“For many urban birds, the presence or lack of a tree means the difference between the birds’ flourishing and dying. In tremendous part, the trees that are with us determine what animals are with us … urban trees are vital for sustaining biodiversity for all animals, and for birds in particular. We have long known that large native trees are keystone structures for wildlife in forest or agricultural settings. But new research shows that even in cities, more trees correlates directly with higher numbers of birds and more bird species, including species that are considered woodland-dependent. This is especially true for big trees, and parks or even backyards with more large trees have more bird species than those with only smaller trees.

Study author Karen Stagoll is not above stating the obvious: “It takes decades for a newly planted sapling to grow into a large tree. We need to think and act early.” The removal of large trees has to be reconsidered in this light—public concerns about the threat posed by older trees might be managed by fencing, education, and protective landscaping.

There is no one way to plan for trees and wildlife in urban places, no one philosophy for all occasions. For decades, the wisdom from conservation biology has involved the preservation of large forest fragments—the bigger the better—and this was viewed as the most important thing. And it’s true—leaving remaining woodlands undisturbed is essential. But we’re learning that there are other elements at play—when we decrease impervious surfaces, increase the number of trees (especially native trees, including conifers, where appropriate), and work to create a multilayered botanical structure, more native forest bird species turn up, even in the denser urban matrix.

By the work of our own hands, we can turn city neighbourhoods that host mainly Crows, Starlings, Pigeons, House Sparrows, Robins, and Flickers into places that also support more sensitive birds that can flourish alongside human habitation when attention is paid to their requirements: migratory Warblers, various woodland Thrushes, Scarlet Tanagers, Downy or Hairy Woodpeckers, Winter Wrens, and many others.”

(from “The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild” by Lyanda Lynn Haupt)