From MBGNA Associate Curator, Michael Kost
Although recent studies show that bird populations are declining across the globe, we can act locally to help stem this loss. Our native birds directly benefit when we plant native plants and restore natural communities. The plants we choose to plant in our yards make a huge difference to our feathered friends and other wildlife. With the exception of seabirds, over 95% of birds rely on insects during the breeding season. Songbirds like chickadees require 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars to successfully raise a clutch of nestlings. Only our native plants can provide birds with these large numbers of insects they need to raise their young. For example, oaks (Quercus spp.) support over 450 moth and butterfly caterpillar species, while Gingko supports none. Even in suburban landscapes, which characterizes much of the Ann Arbor area, yards with greater than 70% native plant cover can support viable, reproductively-successful populations of native birds.
Protecting and restoring native habitats is critically important to birds and other animals. With the help of students at Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, we are proactively removing non-native woody and herbaceous plants and planting native species. It is truly transformative to see native plants and animals rewilding the places they once called home.