This article appeared in Carolina Parent.
As an avid gardener and bird watcher, I’m excited about Audubon North Carolina’s Bird-Friendly Communities Program because it brings together my two passions. Launched last year, the program helps connect gardeners and bird lovers with area plant nurseries to benefit our state’s birds, especially those that are endangered.
With gardening season right around the corner, Audubon North Carolina is making it easy for people who love to garden and watch birds find native plants that provide food for birds — including imperiled ones — in North Carolina. Before you head out to buy new plants in the spring, take a look at Audubon North Carolina’s 2016 list of bird-friendly native plants, all of which are perfect for the Piedmont. If you’d like to see what particular native plants look like before you plant them, check out these plant profiles. Once you’ve chosen the plants you’d like to grow, browse Audubon’s list of bird-friendly native plant retailers near you to shop for them.
“Over thousands of generations, birds have adapted to the native plants found in North Carolina, feeding on the native insects and berries supported by these plants,” says Curtis Smalling, director of Land Bird Conservation. “By growing natives from Audubon NC’s curated list, gardeners have a great opportunity to help the birds they love while supporting local businesses and nurserymen participating in the program.”
I was thrilled to discover that I’ve already planted one of the 2016 featured plants — the American Beautyberry. I bought the plant at my local farmer’s market a few years ago, and its shiny clusters of purple berries have given me much enjoyment over the years, partly because they draw feathered visitors. According to Audubon North Carolina, the berries offer a perfect fuel to migrating Black-throated Blue Warblers as they pass through North Carolina. Since research shows that migration is the most hazardous time of these birds’ lives, providing them with food could help more of these birds to survive, which in turn could better sustain the population over time.
But birds aren’t the only little ones who benefit when gardeners and bird watchers care for nature. If you’re a parent, your own little ones are watching you and will likely enjoy choosing plants, digging the earth and seeing what grows and lands there to feed. As the seasons change and we all grow, our efforts provide joy for generations of birds — and people.