Plant Natives to Feed the Birds

We can do more than this.

If you are troubled about dwindling bird populations and you’d like to help our feathery friends, you need to know a few things like this: It takes more than a bit of bird seed in the winter months.  Take chickadees, for example. They don’t eat seeds in the springtime when they are making and raising babies, they eat only caterpillars.  So where have all the caterpillars gone?


Unfortunately, our own behavior is causing the loss of habitat for caterpillars, leading to a loss of chickadees, which eat more caterpillars than you might imagine.  Think thousands of caterpillars for a single clutch of baby chickadees.  But native caterpillars need native species for their own food.  And thanks to our habit of landscaping with non-native ornamental plants the caterpillars are in shorter supply and so too become the chickadees.

If you want to attract and support bird populations all year round, start planting native species in your yard.  Chickadees won’t be the only beneficiaries.  North American bird populations have nose-dived for a variety of reasons.  A big one, experts tell us, is habitat loss.  Suburbia has created a huge negative impact by landscaping around our homes with lovely but unproductive non-native ornamentals such as azalea, privet, crepe myrtle, Japanese maple, boxwood, barberry, forsythia, heavenly bamboo, English ivy, pachysandra… plants that are native to other countries, not ours.  People don’t realize that most insects cannot feed on these commonly used alien exotics because they do not have an evolutionary tie to the plants.  If the insects can’t feed on your plants then the birds can’t feed on the insects. And it’s these insects that provide the food for our indigenous birds. Continue reading