house wren
Caterpillars are the main food of many nestling birds, like these house wrens. Credit: Doug Tallamy
The Tide - notes in the ebb and flow of news

Binoculars will help find more birds while hiking, but you could lure more birds to your own backyard.

Professor and author Doug Tallamy spoke at The Landings at Skidaway on Oct. 10, pitching the idea of planting part of your yard in native plants to create what he’s calling a “home-grown national park”  across the U.S.

“It’s a cure that it’ll take small efforts from lots of people,” he said. “But those efforts deliver enormous physical, psychological and environmental benefits to everybody.”

More native plants mean more insects, especially bees and butterflies, many of which are highly specialized to live on a particular plant.

“If we can save her insects we can save our birds and we can save nature itself,” Tallamy said. “But we’re gonna have to change the way we landscape to do it.”

More butterflies ensures more bird species can survive, because most birds are highly dependent on fat, juicy caterpillars to feed their young.

“Ninety-six percent of our terrestrial birds are rearing their young on insects and most of those insects are caterpillars,” Tallamy said.

Caterpillars are the baby food of choice for birds because they’re like a jumbo package of nutrients in an easy-to-digest wrapper, unlike say beetles that have a hard shell or aphids that are too tiny.

Natural plantings aren’t the norm across America. Instead, about 40 million acres of the U.S. is planted in lawns. Make half of that into natural landscape and it would be bigger than the sum of the Adirondacks, Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Tetons, Canyonlands, Mount Rainier, North Cascades, Badlands National Park, Olympic National Park, Sequoia National Park, the Grand Canyon, Denali, and the Great Smoky Mountains, Tallamy said.

Skidaway Audubon brought Tallamy to Savannah for the talk, attended by about 50 people. Tallamy is a professor in the department of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware. His books include “Nature’s Best Hope,” which “urges home-owners to take environmental action into their own hands, one yard at a time.”

The Tide brings regular notes and observations on news and events by The Current staff.