Maren gardens in PA, specializing in earth-friendly, unconventional, creative, joyful artistry. She works for eco & climate health.
A Songbird Worth Attracting
You Need to Know: Birds Eat Bugs
Not all birds are vegetarians (herbivores.)
Some are omnivores, eating both seeds and insects.
Those bird species thriving on "meaty" meals have a range of food preferences. Some feast on the eggs or caterpillars of various insects, beetles, and bugs. Others consume only the adult bugs, such as adult flies, butterflies, or gnats.
Below is a partial list of song birds and the bugs they like to eat.
Cardinals Are Great Singers
Common Bug Choices for Song Birds
Red-winged, Rusty, Brewer's
White-eyed, Red-eyed, Philadelphia, Warbling, Blue-headed, Yellow-throated
Tree, Bank, Cliff, Barn, Rough-winged
Yellow-bellied, Great-crested, Eastern Phoebe, Least, Willow, Alder, Acadian
Wood, Gray-checked, Swainson's Hermit, Bicknell's
Chuck Wills Widows
Whip Poor Wills
Eastern Wood Peewees
Attract These Yummy Bugs
Most "bird food" bugs are plant eaters and, furthermore, have a very limited diet.
Some bug species eat a few types of plants.
Others are limited to just a SINGLE plant for 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 shelter or buffet for several or even hundreds of different little critters, bugs, mites, flies, insects and beings. These will then become food to the songbirds you enjoy having in your yard.
Revise Your Notion of Beauty For Plants
Trees and Bushes That Feed Butterflies And Moths
|Common Name||Number of Species Supported|
Maple, Box Elder
Why Native Plants Are Better "Bug 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 species, 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 prevented any one bush or tree from taking over the world.
Unfortunately, when humans started travelling around the world they brought exotic and beautiful flowers, bushes and trees from other countries. Our own bugs had not developed a taste for these newcomer plants and so the bug population DWINDLED from scarce food.
In the short perspective, perfectionist gardeners said, "Good riddance to bugs!"
However, in the long term, this is a very bad situation for gardens. Having fewer bugs on the earth can lead to at least two disasters.
One is fewer songbirds, due to fewer yummy bugs being happily fed by our garden plants..
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.
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|
New England aster
Common blue violet
Songbird Bug Bible
Be Eco-Aware When You Choose Your Garden Plants
It is eco-friendly and “green” to plant the flowers, bushes and trees that attract the wee critters that birds eat.
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.)
This new way of thinking views a few nibbles on leaves as delightful and joyous.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2015 Maren Elizabeth Morgan
Maren Elizabeth Morgan (author) from Pennsylvania on July 16, 2015:
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 on July 14, 2015:
Interesting thinking. I had never thought to actually do something for the bugs. Usually we just try to get rid of them.
Jill Spencer from United States on July 14, 2015:
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 Elizabeth Morgan (author) from Pennsylvania on June 19, 2015:
Dolores, I do the same thing with my coneheads. :-)
Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on June 19, 2015:
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 Elizabeth Morgan (author) from Pennsylvania on June 12, 2015:
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!
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on June 11, 2015:
This is a useful hub with an interesting perspective. Thanks for sharing the information. We definitely need to re-establish balance in nature.