Walter Magazine: Spotlight: Grow it for the birds

This article appeared in Walter Magazine.

As you consider what to plant in your spring garden, the folks at the Audubon Society urge you to remember the birds. “Unfortunately, a yard full of non-native plants is essentially a food desert for our birds,” says Kim Brand, Audubon N.C.’s bird-friendly communities coordinator. “What you plant now could grow into food for migrating birds in the fall.” When planting to benefit wildlife, she says, you also set yourself up for success. “The great thing about native plants is that they are already adapted to our North Carolina climate,” she says. That means there are plenty of options for even the brownest of thumbs. “After the first year, they really do take care of themselves and prosper.”

To help you home in on the right options, Audubon N.C. has a list of recommended bird-friendly native plants every year. The carefully chosen selection is a result of expert consideration and calculation. “Each list represents an entire year of seasonality,” Brand says. “The 2016 list is with hummingbirds in mind. If you planted the entire list, you’d have hummingbird nectar in your yard, in some form, during every season.”

Photo: Photo Credit: Will Stuart

But every bit helps: “A single plant can do a lot.” And this is the time to plant it, because Brand says the ideal spring planting time is April. One of her favorites from this year’s list is the American Beautyberry, which especially helps songbirds. “They’ll be covered with magenta berries in the fall right when songbirds are passing through North Carolina. You’ll have big clumps of pretty berries and little songbirds right outside your window, but you’ll also be fueling them for a long flight north for the winter.” In a pacific spin on killing two birds with one stone, you can feed dozens with one seed.

To make things easier for gardeners, the bird-friendly plant list is created in partnership program with growers and retailers statewide. You can look for the Audubon N.C. tag on shrubs at Logan’s, Fifth Season, Fairview Garden Center, and Garden Supply Company in Cary. The full list of recommended plants is also online, as are tips and further reading for novices and master gardeners alike. “Birds are always all around us, doing their thing, and this is a way to pay attention,” Brand says. “Everyone can make a difference just by adding a few plants to their yard.”