HABITAT AWARD PROGRAM
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q.Why are you doing this?
A. It is documented that the migratory songbirds have declined about 1% per year over the last 50 years. The principal reason is the loss of their natural habitat due to people moving in and building new housing and the infrastructure to support an increase in population. This habitat loss was principally Native trees and shrubbery.

Q. I see your program emphasizes Native plants, why?
A. The Native plants and the insects have evolved together over millions of years to have the correct leaf chemistry to be food for the insects. More insects coupled with the Native seeds and berries causes us to have the complete menu that birds like. Once you bring back the full menu for the birds, you'll get an increase in the number and variety of birds to visit your habitat and therefore help rebuild and sustain the bird population.

Q We have the Azalea festival here and I understand that this plant is not a Native. It has been around long enough to be a Native, hasn't it?
A. A common false belief. It takes much more than a hundred or a few hundred years for the plant and insects to achieve the proper balance. As stated before, we are millions of years down the evolution path to be where we are now with the relationship of the insects, birds and Native plants. There are some Native Azaleas but most sold are not.

Q. I think of Native plants as being a group of uncontrolled plants, a jungle so to speak. Is this correct?
A. The untended lots or forest you see in open areas along the way may appear that way. However, they may include some Non-Native Invasives and/or "escaped" imports. With a variety of Native Plants at our disposal, we can create a beautiful landscaped garden of only Native plants. (See previous pictures)

Q. If Native plants are easier to maintain, i.e. require less or no added watering or fertilizer besides what it gets normally, why are so many Non-Native plants sold at nurseries?
A. One of the selling features of many of the imported plants is the "bug resistance" of the plant. Simply translated, our Native insects don't want or like the imported plant. Also, there is the factor that there are more varieties of showy plants throughout the world that can thrive here and therefore nurseries can make money selling them. In addition, after many years of selling these plants, people are familiar with the Non-Native nursery plants and tend to buy what they know.

Q. If I have Native plants that the insects like, won't my plants be eaten up?
A. If a balance is achieved in your habitat, the extra insects at the onset will be consumed by the birds or any natural predator and the plants may have some damage, but will survive. The key is to work toward this balance which may take a few years to establish. It has been documented over and over that if food sources increase, populations will adjust to fit this change; more eggs may be laid as an example.

Q. Where do I get Native plants?
A. Contact us at info@capefearaudubon.org to get the latest sources

Q. I have a hedge which I'm told is an invasive. I keep it trimmed and I see birds in and around it, what is the problem with this?
A. First the bird question. Yes, you will find the birds there. There may be some insects in the foliage and birds do like dense bushes for shelter, no matter what the plant is. However, it will not be as good as a Native which will supply more insects and/or berries that are sure to be compatible. Keeping an invasive trimmed is to be praised, however, it will reproduce via different mechanisms and may get started at another location where it is not maintained. Once it gets established elsewhere in an untended area, it can out compete the Natives because the Natives evolved to be in balance with all the other plants and animals.

Q. I understand you discourage having a lawn. Why is that? I see many birds on my lawn looking for insects.
A. That is true, there are some birds foraging for food in a lawn. Those birds, a robin usually is very common in a lawn, do not have a decline in their population as do many of the migratory song birds. If a lawn area is reduced or eliminated, the area could support Native plants which will provide more insects and other food per square foot than a lawn. Additionally, lawns use valuable water resources and add pollution to the atmosphere during the mowing process and create undesirable run off from pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides. As stated before, Native plants get by with available rainfall and available nutrients.

Q. All of this sounds good but where can I find out more about this relationship of insects, Native plants and wildlife?
A. I thought you'd never ask. The book that many consider the best source for this question is "Bringing Nature Home" by Douglas W. Tallamy, Timber Press.