the best bird feeder.
The diet of the Carolina Chickadee is made up of 80 to 90 percent insects and spiders. In fact, each one of these backyard favorites must find between six and nine thousand caterpillars to raise just one clutch of young to maturity.
So, if birds need bugs—lots and lots of them—the best way to support bird populations is to provide more habitat where insects can thrive. In his recently published book, Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard, University of Delaware professor and Natural Lands Trustee Doug Tallamy asserts that, in light of habitat loss and a changing climate, we can no longer rely solely on nature preserves and public lands to provide enough habitat for insects and everything else that depends on them to sustain life as we know it. We must begin to fill our own yards, urban parks, and roadsides with native trees, shrubs, and other plants based on their benefit to insect life.
Tallamy identifies native oaks, willows, and cherries as keystone plants: they support significantly higher numbers of insect species than other types of trees. He is especially partial to the mighty oak. “Oaks in the Mid-Atlantic region support hundreds of caterpillar species—577 to be exact—making oaks by far the best plants to include at home if you want to support food webs.”
Discover the best caterpillar hosts for your zip code at www.nwf.org/NativePlantFinder