Beautiful Native Plants

Blog HOME ***Our team of bloggers writes about all aspects of ecosystem gardening, from native plants to pollinators and wildlife.***

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Feed the Birds!

While there are many discussions on the pros and cons of using bird feeders, you can never go wrong by feeding them with the native plants they depend on in the wild. As we wrestle with the reality of increasing species loss, we can take action in our own yards and community spaces by promoting and using plants native to our region. Yes, changes are occurring, and the ranges of both flora and fauna are moving ever northward. But less is not more - let’s keep as many of the local eco-type plants as we can for as long as we can. And enjoy the benefits of the company of the animals that are still counting on them. 

Taken from a distance, but you can see the juniper cone right in the robin's mouth

Although they are often called 'berries,' the fruit
of the juniper is actually a cone. 
Native juniper species make excellent privacy screens, and double as roosting and nesting shelters for birds and a wide variety of insects. Many American robins remain in their breeding territory all winter long and especially appreciate these tasty safe havens. Here a robin is enjoying the fruits of a Rocky Mountain juniper, (Juniperus scopulorum). Each little ‘berry’ is actually a cone, you can see the overlapping scales in the photo, taken with a magnifying lens. 

In the east, use Eastern Red Cedar, Juniperus virginica, and you will not only be helping birds, but also the Juniper Hairstreak butterfly. 

Everyone loves sunflowers, and finches are extremely partial to the seeds of this showy native plant. They have evolved a beak  specifically designed for quick cracking. On the cutting edge of the upper half of the beak is a groove which the lower half slides into exactly. The finch uses its tongue to situate the seed into the groove. As the beak closes, a slight back and forth movement slices the outer hull open. Co-evolution: it works. 

Sunflowers, of the genus Helianthus, members of the aster family, are among the easiest of flowers to grow, and there are many species to chose from. Just make sure it’s a native! 

A lesser goldfinch enjoys sunflower seeds in the native
garden of a library in Boulder, CO.

A hummingbird nectars on mangrove mallow.
Photo thanks to Cathy Lieb Reed Beals 
You never have to worry about keeping native flower nectar clean for your hummingbirds, and the flowers will of course also bring other nectaring insects to your yard. The butterflies are fun to watch, and the hummingbirds will feed on the other protein-rich insects that come along. 

This hummingbird in a South Florida yard is delighted to find a drink in a mangrove mallow, (Pavonia paludicola), graciously provided by the homeowner. If you'd like more information, here is a comprehensive, two-part article on how to attract and feed hummers with native plants:

Natives are a natural.

Sue Dingwell ~ Follow us on Facebook