Want to help songbirds thrive? From the number of people who put out bird feeders, my guess is that there are a lot of “Yes” answers out there.
If you want to go way beyond the bird feeder, attend or join in virtually to the FREE Native Landscape Class March 2 (at right). You don’t have to be a designer to get a lot out of this class. More than anything, it will help you chose the right plant for the right place. You can find one wonderful plant you’d like to add to your yard, or come up with a plan that will turn your yard into a bird oasis.
I went to the “Plan it Native” course at the Discovery Center last week and found out there is a role for us with small yards (and large ones) to help song birds build back their numbers.
Like insects, song birds have been in decline for the last 50 years. There’s a link here! Song birds rely on insects for their food.
We rely on a vast food web and the loss of insects and birds affects all of us.
But there’s hope!
One third of the land in the lower 48 states is in residential yards. In urban areas, the amount in residential yards is more than 50 percent. That means that individual homeowner and apartment/condo dwellers can have a lot of impact on the songbird population.
While the bird feeders are a great treat for birds, what they really need is a ready supply of insects and caterpillars. These superfoods on the hoof are high in protein, fat, carbohydrates nutrients and much more. Seventy percent of songbirds eat nothing but insects, and 95 percent require insects for their youngsters.
(I thought it would be cool to lure Swifts to the yard, you know sort of a Travis and Taylor thing. Turns out they insects high in the air and have no interest in bird feeders or the more earthbound insects)
Good news is that the first step we can take to help turn the bird decline is easy. On each of our small plots of land, find a way to provide food, water and shelter/protection.
Water - a pie pan with water in it is easy. Graduate to a bird bath, then maybe a whisky barrel full of water and one water plant, or go full on with an ornamental pond.
Shelter - a soft place under your trees for caterpillars to hibernate (if grass doesn’t grow there anyway, use ground cover or shade loving plants.) Trees offer nesting sites and places to get away from cats.
Other protection - skip using pesticides. Your plants can take some munching from time to time. If you can’t stand it, be selective, because pesticides aren’t.
Most pesticides are generalists - they kill about anything they touch, especially the bugs we call beneficials, the ones that eat the munchers. So not only do they get sprayed with pesticides just as they’re arriving to save your plants, they also eat insects you’ve sprayed, getting a double dose.
If you read the label (and do PLEASE read the label), the pesticides, including those for organic methods, will tell which “bad bugs” they kill, but they won’t list the beneficial ones, which they also kill.
Food - most birds and butterflies prefer native plants, which range from ground huggers to huge trees. If you only have one native in your yard, the most bang for your bird-feeding buck is an oak tree.
But as I say, the folks at Deep Roots can give you lots of options.
You don’t have to go in to Kansas City for this, although face to face is great. You can take the virtual class that lasts an hour and a half and be inspired.
The Anita Gorman Discovery Center sits just two blocks east of I-44 (71 Highway) on Emanuel Cleaver Boulevard and is a delightful block of green in the city. It’s near the Nelson Art Gallery, UMKC and a host of other sites fun to visit while in the area
Below is an excerpt from Beth's editorial from this week. The entire editorial may be found in this week's print copy of the Weston Chronicle or online here.
The Weston Chronicle