Wild Birds Unlimited Shares the Importance of Growing Native Plants

We asked Wild Birds Unlimited, our “Certified Wildlife Habitat Champions,” Save the Song Birds Hero award winners* to help us highlight the benefits and importance of planting native plants and how they are doing their part. 

Here’s what they had to say!

Kathy & Charles Shattuck

owners of the Wild Birds Unlimited in Hockessin, DE 

Credit: Kathy & Charles Shattuck

Several years ago, we asked our center’s landlord if we could replace a drab, heavily mulched lifeless area outside our store with a pollinator garden. Since then our little patch of native plants, (200 feet square), in a sea of asphalt, has attracted a variety of insects, and birds to it. Just walking by you can hear the buzzing of bumble bees and wasps. Red admiral, tiger swallowtails, fritillaries, and monarchs are a few of the butterflies seen. We now have American goldfinch frequenting the coneflowers and the ruby-throated hummingbirds are visiting the native honeysuckle.

Our garden has also become a great education piece for employees and customers. They’ve learned about which plants attract which insects and realize how easy a pollinator garden is to put in. Our pollinator patch demonstrates not only the beauty of a native plant garden but their benefit to insects, wildlife and the community. 

Manuel & Anna Pena (and daughter Amanda)

owners of the Wild Birds Unlimited Dripping Springs, TX store

Credit: Manuel & Anna Pena

We are lucky to live in the Dripping Springs area, a place where we have a multitude of birds year-round. For over 25 years we have provided the wild birds with feeders, water, and housing in our yard. We have planted a variety of native plants and trees on our property that provide the birds and other wildlife with shelter and food.

For example, we have a yaupon holly in our backyard that provides shelter and safety for the birds year-round. In the winter this tree puts out lots of bright red berries that attract and feed many robins and cedar waxwings.

At our shop we share information with our customers in seven steps they can use to help save the songbirds. We also provide them with handouts from the Texas Bluebird Society with lists of plants that will attract insects that the birds will eat and the plants that will provide food for the birds.

Credit: Manual & Anna Pena

We have also maintained a butterfly garden in our backyard and we’ve been tagging monarch butterflies for over 25 years. Last year we tagged 80 butterflies and we would have tagged more, except we ran out of tags. In addition, we provided a live display at our shop so that our customers could see the different stages of the butterfly’s metamorphosis from egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly. We also provided our customers with information about the plants that attract butterflies to the garden. 

We collect the milkweed seed annually and then grow more plants from seed every year and share those plants with our customers. As you may have heard, the migratory monarch butterfly subspecies is now on the IUCN endangered list, mostly due to loss of habitat. We all can do something about this to reverse the trend by creating butterfly gardens in every backyard. 

This year, we’re under extreme heat and drought conditions. Our trees and plants are looking stressed and our organic garden has pretty much dried up. Due to these extreme conditions, we must do our best to provide the birds, butterflies, and wildlife in general with a habitat that provides food, water, and shelter.

Our kids grew up learning about how to care for nature and that they must respect nature. Now we see our grandchildren learning the same. When our granddaughter helped us tag and release the monarch butterflies last year, we saw nature through her eyes and how much joy and amazement was in those eyes! We can all do our part to take care of nature and share this joy with others.

Gregory Millslagle & Kristin Collins

co-owners of the Wild Birds Unlimited Yorktown, VA store (co- written by Community Outreach Coordinator Michelle Schoop)

Credit: Gregory Millslagle & Kristin Collins

At Wild Birds Unlimited of Yorktown, VA, we’re committed to bringing our community together to help Save the Songbirds – one yard at a time! Our Song Bird Hero incentive program uses the foundation of NWF’s Garden for Wildlife program to inspire our customers and community to create wildlife habitats in their own backyards. 

When we shift from traditional, manicured lawns to natural landscapes, we benefit not only the wildlife but the soil and the surrounding environment to create sustainable ecosystems. We feel it is simply our duty to set an example we can be proud of, demonstrating that when we make a commitment, we can all make a difference! Nothing makes us happier than to see a customer’s face light up with the “ah-ha” moment thinking, “I too CAN do this!”

Credit: Gregory Millslagle & Kristin Collins

But WBU Yorktown doesn’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk! The best way to inspire is through action, and we have created a pollinator garden, a 100-foot learning trail, and use native landscaping around the store property to not only teach our customers and community about our native plants, but to demonstrate how simple and beneficial it can be to use native plants in their gardens.

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Get Native Plants

Native plants have formed symbiotic relationships with native wildlife over millions of years and therefore offer the most sustainable habitat. A plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction.

Exotic plants that evolved in other parts of the world or were cultivated by humans into forms that don’t exist in nature do not support biodiversity as well as native plants can. Occasionally, they can even escape into the wild and become invasive exotics that destroy natural habitats.

Native plants help the environment the most when planted in places that match their growing requirements. They will thrive in the soils, moisture, and weather of your region. That means less supplemental watering, which can be wasteful, and less pest problems that require toxic chemicals. Native plants also assist in managing rainwater runoff and maintaining healthy soil as their root systems are deep and keep soil from being compacted.

* Wild Birds Unlimited’s Save the Song Birds Hero award recognizes stores that have used creative and inspiring actions to go beyond an average store’s daily business and are sharing the Save the Song Birds message and helping their customers be the heroes who help save the songbirds.

Published: August 3, 2022