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/

Ancient Native Plant Relationships Reviewed

Ephedra, Ephedra viridis Coville
Ephedra
Ephedra viridis Coville
Courtesy USDA, NRCS. 2016. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 6 February 2016). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA., BLM Photographer

Hi I’m T.J. Knudson and I’m Gilbert Young.

Stretching from the snowy peaks of the Wellsville Mountains, south to the sandstone shadows of Beaver Dam Wash, an ancient, native relationship provided unity to the diverse landscape. It is admired in the haunting tune of a wind pipe, it comports like a wool blanket; and its tapestry goes beyond the cliff art at Potash, and preceded John Wesley Powell and Brigham Young.

The Ute, Shoshone, Piute, Goshute, and Navajo cultures each echo today an enduring sustaining relationship bonded to the reliable plant life in a diverse land. this relationship sustained our state’s ancient culture, but little is understood about these gifted craftsmen in utilizing the materials and fibers.

In southeast Utah, the shepherd Navajo nation found a companion in the Prickly-Pear Cactus. Despite his short stature and sharp countenance, this ally was able to provide a fleshy, refreshing fruit. After rolling repeatedly through the direct to lose his spines, and soaking in water; there sparks a reaction of the most spectacular die; which was often orchestrated into many shades of red. Despite his stature on the lonely desert floor, the prickly pear creates a color that epitomizes the Navajo beauty and lives on to future generations.

As our ancient travelers would ascend upward into the hills, they would spend time in the Pinyon/Juniper woodland to collect pine nuts. Natives would also search for three other valuable resources: pine pitch, firewood and shelter materials. Underneath the pines and junipers plentiful sumac, can be found; the sumac branches provide the means to develop a midnight-black die and was also an essential basketry material. The third element needed to create this black color was ocher (okerr), a yellow mineral abundant in Navajo territory. The Pinyon-Juniper woodland met the needs of native people, much like modern superstores. Like these plants working together as a team, we all have an opportunity to join others in creating a unified community.

Prickly Pear Cactus, Opuntia ficus-indica
Prickly Pear Cactus
Opuntia ficus-indica
Courtesy US FWS

Across the canyons, a lone plant is found that nursed and comforted tribes long before the hospitals and prescriptions. Ephedra was a medicinal hero, when sharp cold winds swept the valleys. It could be boiled into a delicious tea that combated the common cold, allowing airways freedom of congestion. Also known as Brigham Tea, Natives shared this knowledge to the early Utah Pioneers in their time of need. The evergreen stems of Ephedra offer healing and a comfort that aided the native people and settlers. We also have the ability to heal our souls by intimately connecting ourselves to nature’s bounteous gifts. We can also provide healing to those who are in need of comfort and guidance.

If the past could speak to us today, it would remind us of connections and relationships that have been forgotten. Our hope today is that you may connect with these ancient relationships for yourselves. For more information, check out the Wild About Utah website.

For Wild About Utah this is T.J. Knutson and Gilbert Young.

Credits:
Images: Courtesy , Photographer
Text:     T.J. Knutson and Gilbert Young.


Additional Reading: