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Native plants boost backyard bird biodiversity


Cara J
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To feed their young, many species of birds hunt for insects in people’s yards, which comprise much of the American landscape. A new chickadee study from the Washington metropolitan area suggests that to promote biodiversity, homeowners should plant native species. Insectivorous birds prefer breeding and foraging in native shrubs and trees, researchers found, because they support more caterpillars. “It’s imperative during the breeding season that they have these caterpillars and other insects to provide the protein that nestlings need to grow,” said Desiree Narango, first author on the paper published in Biological Conservation. Narango, a PhD candidate and research fellow at the University of Delaware, and her colleagues at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center were curious about the impacts of nonnative plants on breeding birds’ food resources. From 2013 to 2016, the researchers examined plants, insects and birds in over 200 yards belonging to citizen scientists in Washington, Maryland and northern Virginia. They installed nest boxes at each site to attract their focal insectivore, the Carolina chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) and observe its reproduction and foraging on caterpillars and other prey. “We show that in general, nonnative plants support fewer caterpillars,” Narango said. “We also found that the number of caterpillars [...]

 

Read more: http://wildlife.org/native-plants-boost-backyard-bird-biodiversity/

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