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Northeast Regional Reports

Northeast: Gardening Is for the Birds

How to care for our two-winged friends this winter and all year round

This red-breasted nuthatch enjoys sunflower seeds from a birdfeeder in the depths of winter. Photo: Michel Berube

It’s impossible to imagine life without birds. Yet even habitat for black-capped chickadees is rapidly disappearing. According to Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, “Conservation ecologists … believe that one fourth of all bird species will be functionally extinct (that is, so rare that they no longer contribute to the function of ecosystems) within a century.” There are things we gardeners can do—and should do—to help prevent that.

nesting baby bird
During nesting season, baby birds rely on an insect-based diet. Photo: Diana Koehm

For starters, ditch the chemical pesticides. Birds rely on a high protein insect diet, particularly during nesting season when they and their chicks consume hundreds of caterpillars and other insects daily. Rather than reach for a spray that effectively closes the restaurant, give nature a chance to find the balance between infestation and famine. Birds and other insectivores will come back for seconds.

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