ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Attract Songbirds By Filling Your Garden With Plants That Bring Birds' Favorite Food Insects

Updated on April 9, 2018
Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren gardens in Pennsylvania, specializing in earth-friendly, unconventional, creative, joyful artistry at low cost.

Green Beauty for Plants

This is a plant which has given some sustenance to a bug. A few holes in the leaf mean an insect had a snack there. Good stuff.
This is a plant which has given some sustenance to a bug. A few holes in the leaf mean an insect had a snack there. Good stuff. | Source

Many Birds Eat Bugs

Not all birds are vegetarians (herbivores.) Some are omnivores, eating both seeds and insects. The bird species thriving on meaty meals may feast on the eggs or caterpillars of insects, beetles, and bugs. Others consume only the adult form of its prey, such as the choosing to eat adult flies, butterflies, or gnats.

Below is a partial list of birds which eat bugs as part of their diet.

Common Bird Omnivores

Species
Specifically:
Hummingbirds
 
Orioles
Orchard, Baltimore
Cowbirds
 
Blackbirds
Red-winged, Rusty, Brewer's
Tanagers
Summer, Scarlet
Viroes
White-eyed, Red-eyed, Philadelphia, Warbling, Blue-headed, Yellow-throated
Robins
 
Blue jays
 
Cuckoos
 
Chickadees
Carolina, Black-capped
Swallows
Tree, Bank, Cliff, Barn, Rough-winged
Flycatchers
Yellow-bellied, Great-crested, Eastern Phoebe, Least, Willow, Alder, Acadian
White-tipped Dove
 
Thrushes
Wood, Gray-checked, Swainson's Hermit, Bicknell's
Kinglets
Golden-crowned, Ruby-crowned
Purple Martins
 
Tufted Titmouse
 
Eastern Bluebirds
 
Red-bellied Woodpeckers
 
Chimney Swifts
 
Chuck Wills Widows
 
Whip Poor Wills
 
Eastern Wood Peewees
 
Veerys
 
Nuthatches
 
Mockingbirds
 
Brown Thrasher
 
American Pipit
 
Meadowlark
 
House Sparrow
 

Bugs Eat Plants

Most bugs are herbivores. Furthermore, most have a very limited diet. Some species eat only a handful of types of leaves and some are limited to just ONE food. An example of the latter is the monarch butterfly which can eat only milkweed plants. However, a plant or a tree can be the perfect buffet for several or even hundreds of different little beings which then serve as "bird feed" to the songbirds we enjoy seeing.

Trees and Bushes That Feed Butterflies and Moths

Common Name
Number of Species Supported
Oak
534
Willow
456
Cherry, Plum
456
Birch
412
Poplar, Cottonwood
368
Crabapple
311
Blueberry, cranberry
288
Maple, Box Elder
285
Elm
213
Pine
203
Hickory
200
This table is excerpted from a larger table on page 147 of the excellent guide: Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants by Douglas W. Tallamy.

Why Native Plants Are Better Restaurants Than Imported Plants

As plants and critters evolved together over time, Mother Nature worked things out beautifully. Plants fed bugs. But, before the bugs could eat enough to wipe out an entire plant population, birds ate some of those bugs. But before the birds could wipe out an entire species of insect or beetle or bee, the predators of those birds controlled them. There were checks and balances in nature. Every “predator species” also has its own predators. So, we had a perfect system of native plants for native critters. And, back at the beginning of the food web, the bugs had prevented any one bush or tree from taking over the world.

Unfortunately, when humans started travelling they brought exotic and beautiful flowers, bushes and trees from other countries. Our own bugs had not developed a taste for these newcomers and so the bug population IS DWINDLING. In the short term, a perfectionist gardener might be tempted to say "Good riddance!" However, in the long term, this is a very bad situation. Having fewer bugs on the earth can lead to at least two disasters: one is fewer songbirds. The other is that these foreign plants are not being held in check, so they go on a growing rampage! (for example: kudzu, purple loosestrife, butterfly bush,...) They take over and crowd out those beautiful native plants which do feed the bugs that feed the birds that feed the...you get the picture. So then, this results in even fewer bugs, even fewer birds, even fewer bigger predators and the collapse and disappearance of many species.

Eco-gardeners do not want this to happen. Food producers do not want this to happen. Even the United States military does not want this to happen!

Good Native Plants for the Mid-Atlantic

Trees
Ground covers
Perennials for Dry Places
Perennials for Moist Places
Grasses
Birches
Mayapple
New England aster
Bee balm
Broomsedge
Sassafras
Mountain stonecrop
Orange coneflower
Joe-Pye weed
Pennsylvania sedge
Black cherry
Common blue violet
Wild geranium
Rose mallow
River oats
Black walnut
Creeping phlox
Coral bells
Pink coreopsis
Bluestem
This table is excerpted from one of the indexes of the excellent guide: Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants by Douglas W. Tallamy. It contains information by region of the lower 48 states of the USA.

Be Green in the Decorative Plants You Choose

It is eco-friendly and “green” to plant the flowers, bushes and trees that attract the wee critters that birds eat. Plus, your yard can be just as lovely as those other ones with non-native species that sometimes become out-of-control "invasive" plants, crowding out your native bushes and flowers, and not contributing to the food chain. This new way of thinking about gardening does not mean you will have a yard full of decimated plants. A healthy natural, native forest is not decimated. A minority of the leaves have nibble marks and the forest is filled with life and those wonderful chirps, croaks, songs, and taps that are music to the ears. Planting foods from the native web of life is the right thing to help the entire world. (That includes us humans.)

Songbird Bug Bible

Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, Updated and Expanded
Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, Updated and Expanded

This is such an incredible book! It is the basis for this hub article. I love the humor, the common sense, and the "Bug knowledge" of this author. He is like the Jane Goodall of entomology. Five star recommendations!

 

Sunflower Leaves

Are the leaves of this plant destroyed by a few bug nibbles?  Hardly! One barely notices them.
Are the leaves of this plant destroyed by a few bug nibbles? Hardly! One barely notices them. | Source

© 2015 Maren Elizabeth Morgan

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile imageAUTHOR

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

      3 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Dirt Farmer, good for you! Due to my change in thinking about my yard and plantings, I have planted milkweed seeds and native geranium plants. This book really turned my head around.

      Poetryman6969, this book helped me finally understand why an eco-friend thought that little bug-munched holes in flower leaves are desirable. It IS a big attitude shift.

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 

      3 years ago

      Interesting thinking. I had never thought to actually do something for the bugs. Usually we just try to get rid of them.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 

      3 years ago from United States

      A useful hub, Maren. Love the chart for the Mid-Atlantic. Such a handy way to present the information. I would love to grow Joe Pye weed but just don't have the seed. I'm going to have to stop and grab some from the side of the road! lol

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile imageAUTHOR

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

      3 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Dolores, I do the same thing with my coneheads. :-)

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      3 years ago from East Coast, United States

      One of my favorite plants for attracting birds are coneflowers. When the flowers poop out in Fall, I leave the seed heads on. Soon, goldfinch flit around the yard. Such beautiful birds!

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile imageAUTHOR

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

      3 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thank you, Alicia. I resisted the concept of permitting bugs to chomp on my plants, but the book shown above has so much humor and research behind it, that I was converted!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a useful hub with an interesting perspective. Thanks for sharing the information. We definitely need to re-establish balance in nature.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)