The Bottom Line
Restoring native plant habitat is vital to preserving biodiversity. By creating native plant gardens, each patch of habitat becomes part of a collective effort to nurture and sustain the living landscape for birds and other animals.
Over the past century urbanization has taken intact, ecologically productive land and fragmented and transformed it with lawns and exotic ornamental plants. In that time the continental United States has lost a staggering 150 million acres of habitat and farmland to urban sprawl, and that trend isn’t slowing. The modern obsession with highly manicured “perfect” lawns alone has created a green, monoculture carpet across the country that covers more than 40 million acres. The human-dominated landscape no longer supports functioning ecosystems, and the remaining isolated natural areas are not large enough to sustain wildlife.
Native plants are those that occur naturally in a region in which they evolved. They are the ecological basis upon which life depends, including birds and people. Without these natives and the insects that co-evolved with them, local birds cannot survive. Unfortunately, most of the landscaping plants available in nurseries are alien species from other countries. These exotic plants not only sever the food web, but many have become invasive pests, outcompeting native species and degrading habitat in remaining natural areas.
Landscaping choices have meaningful effects on the populations of birds and the insects they need to survive. Homeowners, landscapers, and local policy makers can benefit birds and other wildlife simply by selecting native plants when making their landscaping decisions.