When we think of feeding the birds, our thoughts are likely to run to seed. Yet most birds do not live solely on seeds – and their babies certainly do not. In fact, 96% of terrestrial birds rear their young on insects. With that in mind, here are some facts to help you motivate your towns and HOAs to support native plants …
1) It takes far more insects than you think to raise a baby bird.
Even tiny birds like chickadees need over 5,000 insects to raise a clutch of hatchlings. Imagine what it takes for larger birds like cardinals or bluejays. Yet with our modern love of asphalt, grass lawns, and non-native plants, there is less and less habitat in which insects can thrive. More to the point, a 2018 study showed that areas planted with fewer than 70% native plants will not produce enough insects to support chickadees. They need at least 70% of the plantings to be native in order to have sufficient insects to feed their young.
2) We are missing a huge number of our songbirds.
If you hear the occasional songbird, you may think there is no problem. But an analysis of 529 North American bird species shows that we have lost 2.9 billion breeding adult birds. Forests alone have lost 1 billion birds. Even the most common of birds are being affected – and the reason is clear: loss of habitat. Not just bird habitat, but insect habitat. Our birds do not have enough food.
3) Monarch butterflies are disappearing.
All butterflies are beautiful and many of us have grown up seeing Monarchs flying around the neighborhood. Yet these butterflies, so dependent on native milkweed to survive, are dying out. The Western Monarch population has a nearly 100% chance of dying out in the next 50 years, and the Eastern Monarch has an 80% chance. This is due to our indiscriminate use of pesticides and herbicides.
Towns and HOAs can make a huge difference.
These situations are not hopeless and can still be turned around. Local policy set by towns and homeowners associations can make a huge difference. By creating policy that promotes native plants and supports pollinators, towns and HOAs can ensure songbirds and butterflies endure for generations to come.
Photo by Pamela Heckel on Unsplash.