Use your Zip Code to attract brilliant birds and butterflies to your yard

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
May 2017

Many of us use birdfeeders to attract birds to our home.  Feeding may not really help the birds, but we enjoy watching them. A more natural and better way to help birds is to grow bird- and butterfly-friendly native plants.  Audubon’s Native Plant database makes ecologically friendly landscaping choices a snap (  Using Audubon’s Plants for Birds nationwide public database, anyone can access a list of native plants that benefit their favorite local bird species just by typing in their zip code. Once established, natives not only provide birds and wildlife with food and shelter, but they save our environment by requiring less fertilizer, no pesticides and much less watering than lawns require. Using native plants thus help keep our lagoon and environment healthy. 

Cloudless Sulphur butterfly in the Audubon House pollinator garden. Photo: Bob Montanaro

Gardens can be our outdoor sanctuaries for birds, insects and other wildlife ( Do you know what 96 % of our land birds feed their chicks? – insects and spiders – but these do not thrive on non-native trees.  Native plants, including trees, host many more caterpillars of butterflies and moths. Do a comparison in your own yard – around what plants do the butterflies and bees flutter and feed?

By adding native plants to one’s yard, balcony, container garden, rooftop or public space, anyone, anywhere, can not only attract more birds but give them the best chance of survival in the face of urban development and climate change

“Birds and native plants are made for each other, thanks to millions of years of evolution,” says Dr. John Rowden, Audubon’s director of community conservation. “As plants grow and bloom earlier because of warming temperatures, there is a growing mismatch between bloom times and the arrival of the birds that depend on them. Habitat provided by native plants can help climate-threatened birds adapt and survive”  By growing native plants, you can help protect birds while turning your home into a private wildlife paradise.  If you plant it, the birds and butterflies will come.

At our Audubon House, we have model demonstration gardens that will show you how:  in collaboration with Nickie Munroe (Indian River County Environmental Horticulture Agent), Robin Pelensky (Landscape Architect, Surlaterre Landscape Architecture), wonderful master gardeners, and great volunteers, we are expanding our native landscaping designed by Robin Pelinsky, and our Butterfly Gardens designed by our own ORCA Volunteer Coordinator, Ken Gonyo, to include a series of Rain Gardens (we call them Lagoon Gardens as they protect our Lagoon) in our dry retention area.  We will be planting different gardens in the spring, summer, fall, and winter.  If you would like to learn while helping, please contact our office (772-567-3520).  Watch the gardens’ progress on our website ( and Facebook page ( 

The native plants will attract Birds (i.e. Cardinals, Grosbeaks, Crows, Thrushes, Waxwings, Sparrows, Hummingbirds, Finches, Nuthatches, Vireos, Woodpeckers, Wrens, Mockingbirds, and Warblers), and Butterflies (i.e. Monarchs, Zebra Longwings, Common Buckeyes, Giant Swallowtails, E. Black Swallowtails, and Sulphurs).

Some native plants to consider (also see list based on your zip code at American Beautyberry, American Pokeweed, Black-Eyed-Susan, Tropical Sage, Common Buttonbush, Corky-Stem Passion-Flower, Dahoon Holly, Marsh Blazing Star, Fakahatchee Grass, Blanket Flower, Florida Privet, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Live Oak, Long-Leaf Pine, Maypop, Red Maple, Red Mulberry, Coral Bean or Cherokee Bean, Satinleaf and Shinyleaf Wild Coffees, Southern Bald-Cypress, Goldenrod, Wax Myrtle, Florida Fiddlewood, Dotted Horsemint, Standing-Cypress, Sweet-Bay, Virginia-Creeper, Water Oak, Winged Sumac, Yellow Necklace Pod, Frog Fruit, Twinflower, Butterfly Weed, Swamp Milkweed, and Coontie.

Where to Buy Native Plants Near You? This is not easy.  We need to support our local nurseries.  Unfortunately they do not yet see a big demand and therefore do not have many native plants.  Every time we visit our local nurseries, let’s all ask for natives so they will see the demand for them.   Maple Street Natives has the best selection of natives: 7619 Henry Ave., West Melbourne, FL 32904, (321) 729-6857, and a great website: A closer possibility that provides natives frequently at the Saturday Morning Vero Beach Farmers Market Oceanside, adjacent to Humiston Park in Vero Beach is Native Butterfly Flowers, which can be reached at (321) 626-7386.

With native plants, our Lagoon and Indian River County can be Great Again.

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