Birds are some of the most visible and charming visitors to our gardens. Are you interested in being a better host to them? This talk provides practical cultural tips and plant suggestions to invite them in and help your feathered guests feel at home. Speaker Alyssa Ford Morel is an Extension Master Gardener and a Master Naturalist.
Zoom session, recorded June 18, 2021
Video of Presentation
Seven “Do’s and “Don’ts to be an Excellent Bird Host
- Do offer a drink of water
- Do provide shelter and safety
- Do leave snags
- Do leave the leaves.
- Don’t kill their protein: eschew pesticides
- Do remove invasive plants.
- Do offer them the healthy food they need: native plants
The question of cultivars . . .
- 00:00 Introduction
- 04:14 Do offer water
- 09:48 Do provide safety
- 15:11 Do leave snags
- 17:38 Do leave the leaves
- 25:20 Don’t use pesticides
- 35:53 Do remove invasive plants
- 43:16 Do offer native plants
- 1:02:06 Questions
- 1:13:50 Seven Plants Offering Sustenance
- 1:35:23 Questions
- 1:37:33 Seven Keystone Plants
- 1:56:23 Final Questions
Seven Great Sustenance Plants to Consider
- Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia Virginiana)
Alternative: Downy Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)
- Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)
Alternative: Red-twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea)
- Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
Alternative: Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)
- Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
Alternative: Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata)
- Native Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.)
Alternative: Black-eyed Susans, Brown-eyed Susans (Rubeckia spp.)
- Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
Alternative: Bottlebrush Grass (Elymus hystrix)
- Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)
Alternative: Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
- Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia
Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic Fact Sheets
- Audubon at Home Northern Virginia
- National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder
- Audubon Native Plant Database
- HomeGrown National Park
Addendum – Follow Up on Questions from Zoom Chat
Ladder-backed Woodpecker: I pointed out a Ladder-backed Woodpecker in the presentation and someone in the chat was concerned that it wasn’t a local bird. That person was correct. The bird was in Arizona, the photographer was a local birder who traveled to Arizona. I just thought his faucet-drinking behavior was too cute to exclude.
Desiree Narango Chickadee Study: I referred several times to a study of Chickadees by Dr. Desiree Narango. If you would like to see the actual study, it is available at Nonnative plants reduce population growth of an insectivorous bird. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Bamboo: A question was asked about substituting bamboo for stalks of native plants for insects that lay their eggs in those stalks. I only understood after I answered that the question was due to the problem of HOA and neighborhood criticism of leaving dead stalks up. What I wish I had said is that if the stalks don’t look good enough through winter (they will be covered by new growth in the spring), they can be cut and bundled and left out in an out-of-the-way spot for the insects to find. This article gives several ideas: Dried Plant Stalks Important Winter Homes for Bees and More! Gateway Gardener.
Cedar Oil: I spent a fair amount of time looking at university documents about cedar oil used either as an insect repellant or as a pesticide. In a nutshell, I didn’t find a lot of scientific documentation of its success or failure in either of these areas, though it looks like it is still being studied. So I’m afraid I cannot either recommend or caution against using cedar oil. We Extension Master Gardeners always like to encourage people to do their own research by adding either site:edu or site:gov onto their search terms in order to access science-based information put out by universities or the government.
Replacement for Nepeta: A question was asked about native replacements for Nepeta, a.k.a. Catmint. I mentioned Monarda punctata (Spotted Beebalm), Liatris (Blazing Star), and Zizia (Golden Alexander). Upon further reflection, I can add Salvia lyrata (Lyre-leaf Sage), Penstemon digitalis (Beard-tongue), Sisyrinchium angustifolium (Narrow-leaved Blue-eyed-grass) and Silene caroliniana (Wild Pink). Which one of these is most appropriate depends on your situation and what you are trying to accomplish.
Native Plants for Shade: A question was asked about native plants for shade, and though my presentation included a number of them, there is no more definitive or comprehensive list than is available at this Plant NOVA Natives link: Shade Gardens Using Native Plants.