Hooded Oriole; Photo: Kathy Dashiell

Three hundred eighty-nine bird species in North America are affected by climate change, as indicated by Audubon’s Survival by Degrees Report. As the Earth warms, many of these bird species will be forced to move, adapt, or perish. However, this is not a hopeless situation. There is something that everyone can do!

By using native plants (or at least plants from the nearby Southwest) in your garden, you provide Arizona birds with the habitat that they need to feed, build nests, and hide in. Their habitat is fragmented, and by using native plants, you are helping restore their natural environment. This is not an effort that benefits only birds though; it helps other native wildlife thrive and helps you, too! With diverse wildlife coming straight to your backyard, you can watch them for entertainment and appreciate the beauty of nature.  A German study has linked biological diversity to human happiness. In addition, native plants are adapted to their environment — meaning that they may require less water and maintenance than exotic plants. It is important to note that water and maintenance is still required, but less so than plants that are not adapted to or from Arizona.

House Finch; Photo: Kathy Dashiell

Planting exotic plants means bringing plants that animals may not be adapted to and may not recognize as a source of food. This would mean that the plant is not very productive for wildlife, with the energy staying with the plant and not moving up the food chain. Some people may think this is better because it means no insects, but that may also mean no other wildlife either. With native plants, birds and other animals eat the insects, keeping insect populations in check.


Curve-billed Thrasher; Photo: Bob McCormick

Using native Arizona plants does not mean you only have to plant prickly stuff. Some great choices to plant include: pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla), chuparosa (Justicia californica), prickly pear (Opuntia species), common sunflower (Helianthus annuus), desert willow (Chilopsis linearis), desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata), desert globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), desert senna (Senna covesii), Arizona milkweed (Asclepias angustifolia), jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis), and ironwood (Olneya tesota).

Please read and print the SAS Bookmark Series for more tips, especially the Native Plants That Can Attract Birds to Your Backyard. To read more about how to care for a native plant garden in Arizona, please read the City of Glendale’s Welcome Wildlife to Your Garden. To find out which plants to use, check out Audubon’s Native Plant Database! Each month, you can choose three packets of native plant seeds from the Maricopa Native Seed Library

Verdin; Photo: Vera Markham

If you’re interested in learning more on this topic, please contact [email protected] with the subject line “Plants for Birds Info.”