Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock
If you'd like to plant specimens that attract native birds to your yard, the National Audubon Society has a new online reference guide that will help you figure out what will grow best in your neck of the woods.
All you have to do is put in your ZIP code and the native plants database will do the rest.
For instance, results for a Joliet ZIP code recommend planting American basswood trees to attract 16 types of birds, including cardinals, vireos and woodpeckers. Other recommendations include: American witch-hazel for woodpeckers, waxwings and wrens; black-eyed Susans for orioles, cardinals and grosbeaks; and cattail gayfeather (prairie blazing star) for hummingbirds.
Those are just a few of the many recommendations listed by the database, which allows users to sort the information by best results or full results. The list can be organized by common names or scientific names, and there are tabs that will direct you to local native plant resources and tips for getting started.
Planting native species in your yard or on your patio or balcony provides a sanctuary for nesting and overwintering birds, the Audubon's website explained:
"Each patch of restored native habitat is just that—a patch in the frayed fabric of the ecosystem in which it lies. By landscaping with native plants, we can turn a patchwork of green spaces into a quilt of restored habitat."
And if you think you have to wait until next spring to get started, that is not the case. According to the Morton Arboretum, fall is a great time to plant some trees, shrubs and perennials.
"When the air temperatures are cooler than the soil, new root growth is encouraged without new top growth. The result is a stronger, better developed root system for the next spring when the plant begins to grow."
But before you plant, use the Audubon's online database to make sure they are native species that are better adapted to survival in northern Illinois. The Audubon explains why native plants are better for the environment than nonnatives.
"Native plants provide nectar for hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. They provide nourishing seeds and irresistible fruits for your feathered neighbors, and they offer places to nest and shelter from harm."
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