Pennsylvania’s state bird, the ruffed grouse, is among 314 climate-threatened species. (Lindsay Stedman/USFWS)
PHILADELPHIA – If you’re tired of mowing lawns in the summer, the National Audubon Society suggests you could plant bird-friendly gardens instead.
Spring is finally here, and that means Americans will soon be mowing about 40 million acres of lawns every week. With climate change and urbanization drastically reducing the range of North American bird species, replacing parts of lawns with gardens can help restore the environment that birds need.
And according to John Rowden, director of community conservation at the Audubon Society, selecting the right native plants will do the most for local bird populations.
“Native plants provide resources directly, like food, nuts, seeds and nectar, but also indirectly by hosting insects from ladybugs to beetles and caterpillars,” he says.
The Audubon Society has launched a national Plants for Birds campaign urging Americans to grow one million bird-friendly native plants this year.
To help get there, Rowden says, there’s a native-plant database on the Audubon Society webpage.
“All people need to do is put in their ZIP code and they can then get a list of plants that are native to their area,” says Rowden. “They can get the birds that will be supported by those plants.”
It also provides a list of retailers that carry native plants and links to the local Audubon Society.
Replacing some lawn area with native plants also cuts down on the use of fertilizer and weed killers as well as the noise and air pollution from mowers. And Rowden points out that even people with no lawns at all can help out.
“If they have an apartment or a balcony or a fire escape data show that, even small bits of native plants, insects will find them, birds will benefit from them and so we really do encourage anybody anywhere to dig into the program with us,” he says.