|Osprey Nest in a Norfolk Island Pine|
In response I offer my personal experience from SW FL. I live on Manasota Key in Englewood, FL, in Charlotte County, just north of Punta Gorda through which hurricane Charlie passed on Aug. 13, 2004. It was a very narrow but strong storm and caused the loss of many trees including Australian pines. To my knowledge few NIP were blown down! Instead, perhaps due to their conical shape (largest at the bottom and rather pointed at the top) and strong trunk and roots the trees survived. Many of the branches were wrenched off but they re-grew due to trunk sprouting. A report on tree damage caused by hurricane Charlie on Sanibel Island provides a remarkable photo of a NIP trunk with no branches left. Although the report recommends against planting of NIP, they provide no evidence of tree fall.
|Eagle's Nest in NIP: S. Manasota Key|
As a retired biologist I spend a lot of time studying how to improve wildlife habitat under the conditions imposed by human occupation of the landscape. Norfolk Island pines are ideal for providing nesting habitat for ospreys and eagles along the S FL coasts where humans dominate the ground level of the habitat. So if you want raptors to nest you must provide tall trees. If you dogmatically eliminate exotic trees such as these Norfolk Island pines which are ideal nesting habitat, you will have few if any nesting raptors since there are not any native trees which will survive and grow to a sufficient height within a reasonable time frame to serve this purpose. Data are scarce but it may take slash pines in this area more than 100 years to reach a size adequate for eagle nests. These tall Norfolk Island pines also provide useful habitat for other birds and animals, they grow fast, and they occupy a small ground footprint relative to their height. I would not recommend "topping" them since the regrowth may overbalance the tree and provide an area of weakness when exposed to strong winds.
|Norfolk Island Pine with Osprey Nest, Manasota Key|