by Sandy Swegel
I learned something really new this week. This week I learned that birds like to eat bugs. Well, duh, you say. Think about it. One of the great images we have of spring is the mama bird dangling a worm over the gaping beaks of adorable baby birds. Then think about our typical bird feeders….full of sunflower seeds.
I was in the middle of converting a neglected path of weedy lawn into a flower bed and was thinking about “habitat” for birds. So I naturally considered sunflowers and plants with seeds or berries. Then the teachable moment came at a talk our County biologist gave on native plants. She pointed us to Douglas Tallamy’s book “Bringing Nature Home Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants”. Tallamy points out 96% of North American wild birds feed their young with insects and larvae (caterpillars). Now the adult birds – like humans — may like the high fat, high sugar treats (berries) we give them…but it’s the protein in the bugs that is so important to sustain our bird populations.
Previously, I thought the point of planting native plants was because they were adapted to our local soil and weather and would survive better. But the real reason to plant natives is to feed the local beneficial insects (lady bugs, lacewings, moths, and all the little tiny flying things you can barely see) that live here already and who do the hard work of eating pests like aphids and thrips. They also do a lot of the pollination in our garden along the way. Lots of insects means more pollinators for our flowers and more food for the birds – in other words, a healthy habitat.
So if you want to feed the birds, you need to feed the bugs. Nice plump insects, worms, and larvae are what bring more birds to your yard. Yum, Worms…it’s what’s for breakfast!
Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants: http://tinyurl.com/a9voelq
The New York Times article on Tallamy: http://tinyurl.com/yqmlhx
Saving Birds Thru Habitat website: http://tinyurl.com/bfeljl2
Photo Credit: http://tinyurl.com/bxtwed4