Every spring, migrating birds visit our yards looking for nourishment and a place to raise their chicks. By adding native plants – to your yard, balcony, container garden, rooftop or public space – you can attract more birds, as well as give them the best chance of survival in the face of climate change and urban development.
But which plants do your favorite birds like? You can find out by going to the National Audubon Society’s new Plants for Birds website, here. Type in your zip code, and you will see a list of native plants that benefit local bird species, as well as local resources and links to more information.
You can also enter your email address to receive a list of the native plants you’ve selected and get tips on creating your bird-friendly habitat.
Plus, identify the birds in your area with Audubon’s free app. Download it here.
Most of the plants you find at nurseries are exotic species from other countries. Many are prized for the exact qualities that make them poor food sources for wildlife. They generally also require more chemicals and water to thrive, increasing maintenance time, costs and environmental hazards.
Tod Winston is Plants for Birds program associate at Audubon. He said:
Did you know that 96 percent of land birds feed insects and spiders to their chicks? A single nest of chickadee babies may scarf down as many as 9,000 caterpillars before they fledge. Native tree species are better for birds because they host many more caterpillars; native oaks support more than 550 kinds of butterflies and moths. Non-native Ginkgo trees? Only five.
Keep common birds common with these native plants this spring:
Cardinals, grosbeaks, and tanagers
Attract them with: Sunflowers, elderberries, and serviceberries.
Chickadees and titmice
Attract them with: Birches and sumacs.
Attract them with: Composite flowers, spruces, hemlocks, and pines.
Attract them with: Honeysuckle vines, penstemons, milkweeds, and sages.
Attract them with: Blackberries and wild grasses.
Warblers and Vireos
Attract them with: Oaks and beeches.
Attract them with: Pines, hickories, oaks, and cherries.
Bottom line: A National Audubon Society website lets you type in your zip code to learn with native plants are best for attracting birds to your yard,
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.