To Grow Your Own Bird Food, Native Plants Are Key!

Native Plants Are Key: Black-chinned Hummingbird, Archilochus alexandri Courtesy US FWS, Alan Schmierer, Photographer
Hummingbirds Eat Insects
and Drink Nectar From Flowers
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Archilochus alexandri
Courtesy US FWS, Alan Schmierer, Photographer
Did you know that hummingbirds eat aphids and mosquitoes?Native Plants Are Key
When we think about landscaping for the birds we might think of the National Wildlife Federation guidelines to include food, water, shelter and places to raise young, but chances are the foods we think of first are berries, nuts, and seeds, when in fact the single most important food to ensure the survival of songbirds are the insects hosted by native plants. The Bridgerland Audubon Society website includes a wealth of resources on many aspects of Bird_Friendly Living, not least of which native plants for Utah gardens.

Douglas Tallamy’s website “Bringing Nature Home” states that most songbirds need insect protein for their young, and the top plant species that host the caterpillars birds need are oak, cherry and willow. Just one of many plants to share with birds is the Chokecherry, preferably with green leaves, as the red-leafed cultivars are not attractive to insects. Chokecherry fruits are great for people and birds, and the leaves will host insects for baby birds. Remember, those little hummingbirds aren’t just sipping nectar and pollinating flowers, they’re eating aphids and mosquitoes, serving an important pest management role in your garden!

I will now read the Mayor’s Proclamation to Grow Native for Birds, a timeless summary of the reasons to err toward native plants:

Proclamation To Grow Native For Birds:

Whereas, growing native plant communities in our residential, municipal and commercial landscapes promotes and enhances our sense of place; and Whereas, increased awareness and use of native plants is fundamental to water conservation, water quality, habitat preservation and successful gardening; and

Whereas, gardens and landscapes composed of Utah’s native plants require little or no fertilizers, soil amendments, or pesticides; and

Whereas, using firewise plants native in our landscape is often the safest option; and

Whereas, landscaping choices have meaningful effects on the native insects that bird populations need to survive; and

Whereas, a diversity of birds is indicative of a healthy ecosystem, including biological control of pests, carrion regulation, seed dispersal, and nutrient cycling; and
Whereas, birdwatching can be a fun, relaxing, multigenerational, educational family wellness activity;

Now, Therefore, we do hereby declare this Proclamation to Grow Native for Birds and encourage everyone to actively foster and support the use of Utah native plants in their gardens and landscapes.

I’m Hilary Shughart with the Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I’m Wild About Utah

Credits:
Photo: Courtesy US FWS, Alan Schmierer, Photographer, https://images.fws.gov/
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text: Hilary Shughart, President, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Hilary Shughart and Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

Grow Native For Birds Project, Bridgerland Audubon Society, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/our-projects/grow-native-for-birds/

Logan, UT Mayor Holly Daines, Proclamation to Grow Native for Birds,
Facebook Live, https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2627914670831507
Text: https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Proclamation.pdf

Grow Native For Birds, Bridgerland Audubon Society, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/our-projects/grow-native-for-birds/

Liberatore, Andrea, Grow Native!, Wild About Utah, June 9, 2011, https://wildaboututah.org/grow-native/

Hellstern, Ron, Attracting Birds and Butterflies to Your Yard, Wild About Utah, May 28, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/attracting-birds-and-butterflies-to-your-yard/

Hellstern, Ron, Build a Certified Wildlife Habitat at Home, Wild About Utah, Jul 17, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/build-community-wildlife-habitats/

National Audubon Native Plant Finder, Coleman and Susan Burke Center for Native Plants, Audubon.org, https://www.audubon.org/plantsforbirds


Native Plants For Birds, National Audubon Society
Nov 20, 2017

Cane, James, Gardening for Native Bees in Utah and Beyond, (includes a flowering calendar for cultivated bee plants), http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/factsheet/plants-pollinators09.pdf

RESOURCES: Water-Wise and Native Plants, Center for Water Efficient Landscaping, Utah State University Extension, https://cwel.usu.edu/plants

Kuhns, MIchael, Are Native Trees Always the Best Choices?, Forestry, Utah State University Extension, https://forestry.usu.edu/trees-cities-towns/tree-selection/native-trees

Creating Landscapes for Wildlife… A Guide for Backyards in Utah, Written by Sue Nordstrom and Illustrated by Kathlyn Collins Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, Utah State University with Margy Halpin, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources; Second Printing 2001,
Updated for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, by Frank Howe, DWR Avian coordinator; Ben Franklin, DWR–Utah Natural Heritage Program botanist; Randy Brudnicki, DWR publications editor; and landscape planning illustrations by Stephanie Duer.,
Published by:
State of Utah Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife Resources,
Utah State University Cooperative Extension Service and
Utah State University Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning;
1991 updated 2001 http://digitallibrary.utah.gov/awweb/awarchive?type=file&item=10215

Handbook on Riparian Restoration, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Department of Natural Resources, State of Utah, http://wildlife.utah.gov/pdf/riparian.pdf

Kirchner, Jane, Meet the Squad of Mosquito-Eating Species, National Wildlife Federation, August 24, 2020, https://blog.nwf.org/2020/08/meet-the-squad-of-mosquito-eating-species/

Native Plants for Birds

Native Plants for Birds: Female Rufous Hummingbird(Selasphorus rufus) on Red Flowering Current(Ribes sanguineum) Courtesy US FWS, Peter Pearsall, Photographer
Female Rufous Hummingbird(Selasphorus rufus) on Red Flowering Current(Ribes sanguineum)
Courtesy US FWS, Peter Pearsall, Photographer
When we are hungry, we head for the kitchen. When birds are hungry they head for plants. Native plants, in particular provide important sources of food for birds and other wildlife.

Native plants play an important role in an ecosystem, providing the best habitat for wildlife. They are species of plants that have grown naturally in an area and thrive in an environment that matches the soils, moisture, and weather of a particular locality.

Arrowleaf Balsamroot Hyde Park, UT Courtesy & Copyright Linda L'Ai
Arrowleaf Balsamroot
Hyde Park, UT
Courtesy & Copyright Linda L’Ai
There are mutually beneficial connections for plants and birds that have evolved together. Native plants are a veritable market place for birds offering them nuts, seeds, fruits, nectar, and tasty bugs. They have an important influence on a bird’s diet, feeding habits, and even migration patterns. And as birds feed on the local fare they spread pollen and seeds.

This data gathered by Audubon’s Plants for Birds Program supports the planting of native species whenever possible.

  • 96% of land birds feed insects to their chicks.
  • Native oak trees host over 530 species of caterpillars while non-native ginkgo trees host just 4.
  • To raise one nest of chickadee babies, parents must gather between 6,000 and 9,000 caterpillars.
  • Suburban yards planted with native species host 8 times more native birds.

Birds shape their migration patterns around native plants. Plants that produce fleshy fruit duirng the late summer and fall provide birds with the energy needed for long migrations.

Urbanization has resulted in a threat to native plants. According to Audubon, the continental United States has lost over 150 million acres of native habitat due to urban sprawl. Fragmentation of native plant habitat is believed to be due to the construction of cities, roads and river flow reservoirs. All of these, combined with a changing climate’s impact on timing of insect hatching and flowers opening, present many challenges to our birds.

Northern Flicker Courtesy & Copyright Linda L'Ai
Northern Flicker
Courtesy & Copyright Linda L’Ai
You can help improve the connection between native plants and birds by adding native plants to your landscape. The native plants database developed by Audubon provides users with customized lists of native plants specific to your area, as well as the steps needed to evaluate which plants will find success in your soil. You can find the website at Audubon.org/plantsforbirds.  It’s as easy as putting in the area code, then clicking search. There are over 40 native plants listed for the Cache Valley area.

Dark-eyed Junco Courtesy & Copyright Linda L'Ai
Dark-eyed Junco
Courtesy & Copyright Linda L’Ai
Finches, sparrows, and chickadees are common birds to our area and are attracted to the seeds of the common sunflower.

The Wild plum, provides fleshy fruit for sparrows and chickadees and insects for woodpeckers.

Milkweeds attract hummingbirds and insect pollinators and serve as larval hosts for Monarch Butterflies.

Growing native plants is something we all can do in our yards or in the community to help bird populations increase now and in the future. Consider this: native plants that are adapted to the local region require less water, fertilizers and no pesticides.

Check out Audubon.org/plantsforbirds to find out more.
If you really dig birds, try digging native plants into your garden!

I’m Linda L’Ai with the Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I’m Wild About Utah!

Credits:

Photos: Courtesy US FWS, Peter Pearsall, Photographer, https://images.fws.gov/
Audio: Courtesy and Copyright Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text: Linda L’Ai, Bridgerland Audubon Society
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham & Hilary Shughart, Bridgerland Audubon Society

Additional Reading

Grow Native For Birds, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/our-projects/grow-native-for-birds/

Plants For Birds, The Coleman and Susan Burke Center for Native Plants, National Audubon Society, https://www.audubon.org/plantsforbirds
“Plants for Birds,” National Audubon, https://vimeo.com/163864388

Native Plants for the Utah Landscape, Center for Water-Efficient Landscaping, Utah State University Extension, https://cwel.usu.edu/native-other

Native Plants, The Coleman and Susan Burke Center for Native Plants, National Audubon Society, https://www.audubon.org/native-plants/

Native Plant List-Utah and Western Colorado, PlantNative, Portland, OR, http://www.plantnative.org/rpl-ut.htm?fbclid=IwAR1nnlQUQ680x_SpwrKH_Fvtt2J2mtF7cqwZeUW8XAzzvlObs4K-kMPMIg0

Utah Native Plant Society, https://www.unps.org/

Tallamy, Doug, Sustainable Landscaping, Research, University of Delaware, May 2, 2013, 2.26 min, https://youtu.be/NTbPNwNIoLs

Tallamy, Doug, Eierman, Kim, EcoBeneficial Interview: Dr. Doug Tallamy In His Garden on the Importance of Native Plants, EcoBeneficial!, Nov 22, 2013, 29:30 min https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w39g_f7BMUk