Use native plants to bring birds to yard
Numerous birdseed mixes are sold so humans can help birds survive the winter months. Each is blended for certain target bird population. There are songbird mixes, woodland bird mixes, blends specific to mourning doves or finches, waste-free mixes, and regional blends, as well as single ingredient bags of sunflower seeds, safflower seed and thistle seed.
The price range is wide. Most bags list the types of birds its contents attract to make it easier for the homeowner to choose what to buy. So we’re all set for caring for the birds in winter.
Why not make your property a welcoming place for your favorite kind of bird all year long? Audubon has a new website to help you do just that. At audubon.org/nativeplants you have only to enter your ZIP code and chose the bird or birds you wish to support, and the website comes back with a list of plants native to your area that will provide sustenance for those birds. Or, if you’d like to welcome all birds, you need not select any particular bird.
As a reminder, native plants are those that were growing in a particular geographic area prior to European settlement. They are accustomed to an area’s soils and climate, so once established, they need little help from humans in the form of water and fertilizer. Native plants support the birds, mammals, insects and microscopic creatures that are indigenous to the area much better than do non-native plants.
On the Audubon native plant website, you can narrow the search to particular types of plants, such as trees, shrubs, grasses, vines, evergreens, annuals and perennials, or succulents.
For example, when I entered my ZIP code and selected “shrubs” and “cardinals,” the website came back with these nine native shrubs: alternate leaf-dogwood, American hazelnut, black raspberry, chokecherry, common buttonbush, common winterberry, gray dogwood, red elder and white sagebrush. There are a photo and short description of each plant and a list of the birds besides cardinals that each shrub will support.
Many of these native plants hold on to their fruits, seeds or nuts through autumn and early winter and provide late season food for birds, saving money on the purchase of birdseed.
At the top of the Audubon screen, clicking the Local Resources tab returns a list of websites to go to for more information, along with a list of nearby companies selling native plants. For some reason, information for the Winnebago County Audubon Society is missing. Its website is winaudubon.org.
If you’d like to learn more about native plants, consider attending “Toward Harmony With Nature” Saturday, Jan. 27, at the Oshkosh Convention Center. This is the 22nd annual conference on native plants and natural landscaping sponsored by Wild Ones Fox Valley Chapter. The daylong conference offers a variety of speakers from which to choose, a silent auction and vendors providing an abundance of free information along with items for sale. See towardharmonywithnature.org for more information.
Lawanda Jungwirth is a UW-Extension Master Gardener. Email her at email@example.com.