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Non-Native Landscapes Mean 'Food Deserts' For Migrating Birds

Grey catbird on a beautyberry shrub.
Will Stuart
Grey catbird on a beautyberry shrub.

Audubon North Carolina is encouraging nurseries to raise more native plants. The conservation organization is also asking more residents to plant them in their yards and gardens.

Bird-Friendly Communities Coordinator Kim Brand says migrating birds need the fruits and insects these plants support. Our plants benefit from keeping these birds happy. For example, migrating hummingbirds are important pollinators.

"Native plants like plhlox and red buckeye, early flowering plants are especially important when the hummingbirds arrive and they're flying through North Carolina in late March," Brand says. "And if you have a diversity of native plants in the landscape, they're going to offer up continuously flowers that will support the hummingbirds and the other pollinators."

She says new-growth oak trees supply caterpillars, which are a key food for migrating birds and their chicks.

Brand says native plants typically support four-times as many insects as non-native plants, and landscaped areas often have few native plants.

"Whether it's a suburban yard, or a corporate campus, any of our landscaped areas typically have around 80 percent non-native plants. And the non-native plan are, for the most part, a food desert for our birds."

Brand says the Audubon North Carolina web site has information about recommended native plants, and nurseries that carry them.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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