Bird-Friendly Communities

Plants For Birds

Nectar-slurpers love the bright flowers of this native coral bean. Photo: Will Stuart

Why landscape with native plants?  Because plants from faraway places can’t sustain South Carolina birds. 

Our birds are adapted to our insects.  Our insects are adapted to our plants.  A native oak hosts more than 500 species of caterpillars.  If you planted an exotic ginko instead, that number would drop to four.

And caterpillars matter.  Many birds rely on protein-rich insects to survive.  One clutch of chickadees, for example, gobbles down 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars before they leave the nest. 

Native plants have more subtle benefits too.  Their deep root systems – really deep compared to turf grass – restore healthy soils.  Healthy soils not only absorb stormwater, providing protection from floods; they also absorb or "sequester" carbon, which actually slows climate change.

So hey  how native is your backyard?  In urban and suburban areas, more than 80 percent of plants are exotic species.  Cities and suburbs now cover 10 to 15 percent of South Carolina, and growing.  If homeowners, developers, and landscapers statewide decided to "go native," we could ensure the survival of literally millions of birds.

So let’s get started . . . yesterday!  Check out the beautiful plants that are native to your area.  Investigate South Carolina’s native nurseries.  And please let us know if there's anything we can do to help you make the switch!

PROJECT CONTACT:  Matt Johnson, mgjohnson@audugon.org.

See the turf grass on the far left, with its pathetic little roots? Compare it to native plants, whose super-deep root systems reduce flooding and help limit climate change. Illustration: Conservation Research Institute