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:
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
North American Native Plant Society
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
A Wildlife, Family and Pet-friendly Lawn
Red-banded Hairstreaks Need Sumacs and Leaf Mulch
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Hi Mary Anne – this is another great post and another important reminder about why we should embrace our native plants – as well as the “debris” in the yard at the end of the season which is the incubator for so many of next spring’s living things. Love your sweet robin photos!
Hi Mary Anne–
I was so interested to see that this year for the first time, a flock of robins came into my yard and stripped the Ilex verticillata of its berries in mid-December. This is the first time it has ever happened this early in winter! I wonder if the super cold spells we had facilitated the transition of carbohydrates in the berries to more appealing sweetness earlier than usual?
Dear Mary Anne,
These are magnificent shots of the winterberry at work in the natural environment. Planting a winterberry bush is such a simple and meaningful activity. Thanks for the beautiful Christmas gift.
Happy holidays, and best wishes for the new year!