March Action for Year of the Bird: Native Plants, Birds, and You
2018 is the Year of the Bird, which is bringing us great information and ideas for things we can do to bring more birds (and healthier birds) into our lives. For the month of March, the national Audubon Society is talking about the amazing benefits of native plants. This is the perfect time to consider adding some native plants to your yard, garden, or balcony, because spring is coming, the season of growth and of migration. Native plants have a whole range of benefits—they’re better for the environment, better for your wallet, better for wildlife, and can be one of the very best ways to attract and assist birds while beautifying your home!
What are the benefits of having native plants? Native plants have evolved with the local climate, and so they typically require less upkeep than non-native plants. For example, plants native to desert regions don’t need as much water (which saves you money and helps keep Arizona’s rivers from going dry). Native plants provide better food and shelter for local birds, and birds recognize many native plants and are drawn to particular ones. By having those native plants, you are actively improving the local habitat and attracting more birds in the most effective way without draining the resources of the area—with the least amount of time, money, and effort from you! EVERYBODY WINS!
Great! I’m convinced. What plants should I get? Audubon has a great resource for this at https://www.audubon.org/native-plants. Go there, type in your ZIP code, refine it even further if you are only interested in particular birds or particular types of plants, and discover the best native options for you. You can check off the ones you like most and have Audubon e-mail the list to you! Here are some of the plants on my list:
• Big Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) – an important plant for wildlife, and as a bonus, I love the way it smells (especially when it rains), so now I can make the area around my house smell fantastic! Attracts finches, grosbeaks, chickadees, jays, and sparrows.
• Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia)—one of my favorite wildflowers around Flagstaff, a delicate blue-violet bell-shaped flower. Attracts hummingbirds.
• Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberose)—critical plant for Monarch butterflies as well as being attractive to many birds, including hummingbirds, orioles, warblers, waxwings, grosbeaks, finches, thrushes, wrens, vireos, and more!
• Eaton’s Firecracker (Penstemon eatonii)—bright red flowers for the hummingbirds and nectar lovers.
• American Plum (Prunus americana)—reddish tree that grows cherries. Attracts fruit-eaters and provides habitat for birds like orioles, woodpeckers, waxwings, warblers, nuthatches, and more.
This is just a very small sample. There are very attractive options of all shapes and sizes from grasses to trees. Go check it out!
I don’t have a yard or garden. How can I use native plants? Don’t worry. Visit the website listed above and select “Annuals/Per.” from the “Types of Plants” drop-down menu. Many of the plants in this category can be grown in pots or planters! Here’s another useful website: http://www.audubon.org/news/brighten-your-balcony-or-patio-diy-native-plant-garden
Where do I get my native plants? Now that you have your list, head to your local experts! They can give you more information about the plants you like, such as light requirements and care. Here are some options for northern Arizona:
Cottonwood—Verde River Growers, nursery with native options and expertise on native plants
Sedona—Keep Sedona Beautiful, does not sell plants but very knowledgeable about native plants
Flagstaff—Willow Bend Environmental Education Center, does not sell plants but is very knowledgeable about native plants that attract different birds and pollinators
Flagstaff—Flagstaff Native Plant & Seed, nursery and landscaper with expertise on native plants
Flagstaff—the Arboretum at Flagstaff (opens for the season in April), nursery with great expertise on native plants and plants that attract birds
Flagstaff—Warner’s Nursery & Garden Center, nursery with native options and expertise on their plants
That’s all great, but what I really want is a sign I can put up with my native plants to help inform and inspire others. You’re in luck! The beautiful sign in the photo above this article can be purchased with a $25 donation to Audubon. Here’s the link: https://act.audubon.org/onlineactions/icNeR7XkDUCAdJpV3K0YVQ2
As always, you can find more information on the Year of the Bird and on each of the monthly bird-friendly actions at http://www.audubon.org/yearofthebird
— Amy Zimmerman