Looking for the perfect holiday gifts for the birds, butterflies, bees and other wildlife neighbors outside your windows?
The answer is simple. Give them plants that are native to where you live. Plants and animals have evolved together over many centuries in such a way that they depend on each other for their survival. Animals depend on native plants for food, shelter, nesting sites and materials. Plants in turn depend on animals to help disperse their seeds, and in many cases for essential assistance in reproduction, as their pollination intermediaries.
You’ll be doing yourself a favor, too, since native plants, once established, typically don’t require fertilizer, watering or other special care.
The American Robin shown here with Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) was one member of a flock of Robins that swooped down to devour the bright winter-time fruit. Winterberry Holly has fruit high in carbohydrates and low in fats, a recipe for being ignored during migration season in fall, but devoured during the cold days of winter when birds need those carbohydrates. In exchange for this winter feast, birds ‘disperse’ the seeds complete with fertilizer after the seeds move through a bird’s digestive system.
If you live in North America, here are a few resources to help you learn which plants are native where you live:
Also check with your local state or province native plant society.
For the birds, another great gift idea is a heated bird bath. Birds need to drink and bathe even in winter.
What else can you do? Less:
- Leave the fallen leaves in your planting beds. They provide habitat for overwintering insects, and the insects are food for birds.
- Don’t use pesticides or herbicides
- Reduce your lawn size if possible
- Chop up leaves on your lawn with a mulching mower to create a natural chemical-free fertilizer