Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 9, 2018

Backyard Birds Decline Linked Nonnative Garden Plants

Smithsonian’s National Zoo reports

Study Links Declines in Suburban Backyard Birds to Presence of Nonnative Plants

Findings Give Landowners a Simple Road Map to Provide Essential Habitat for Breeding Birds

Insect-eating birds that depend on the availability of high-calorie, high-protein cuisine — namely caterpillars and spiders — during the breeding season to feed their young are finding the menu severely lacking in backyards landscaped with even a small proportion of nonnative plants, according to a new study from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. This reduction of food availability has led to a decline in the breeding success and population growth of the Carolina chickadee, the study found.

“Landowners are using nonnative plants in their yards because they’re pretty and exotic, they’re easy to maintain, and they tend to have fewer pests on them,” said Desirée Narango, a graduate student researcher at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and first author of the study published Oct. 22 in PNAS. “But it turns out that a lot of those insects they see as pests are actually critical food resources for our breeding birds. For landowners who want to make a difference, our study shows that a simple change they make in their yards can be profoundly helpful for bird conservation.

”The study is the first to directly link the decline of a common resident bird species to the lack of insect prey that results from the use of nonnative plants in landscaping. Narango and colleagues placed nest boxes in more than 160 yards in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and collected data from homeowners monitoring the nest boxes weekly for Carolina chickadee nests, eggs and nestlings. In those same yards, they also studied adult and juvenile survival by gathering data from the homeowners on individually marked birds they had resighted.

Read more at: New Smithsonian Study Links Declines in Suburban Backyard Birds to Presence of Nonnative Plants | Smithsonian’s National Zoo


  1. […] via Backyard Birds Decline Linked Nonnative Garden Plants — Natural History Wanderings […]


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