Georgia Audubon celebrates 5th annual 'Georgia Grows Native for Birds'

A Gray Catbird on American beautyberry, a popular Georgia native plant in many gardens. (Courtesy of Will Stuart)

September is for the birds. Georgia Audubon is celebrating their fifth annual “Georgia Grows Native for Birds” Month. During the entire month of September, they’ll hold virtual and in-person events highlighting native plants and their role in restoring birds’ habitats.

Dottie Head, director of communications for Georgia Audubon, joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom along with the Habitat Conservation Program manager Gabe Andrle, to talk about how Georgians can join them in supporting local birds and their natural homes.

Interview highlights:

Reintroducing native plants to address habitat loss:

“Native plants are really the foundation of all of our ecosystems across the world, and here in North America, over time, we’ve altered our landscapes quite a bit. And so much of our biodiversity, especially birds, rely directly on native plants for a variety of reasons,” said Andrle.

“Not only are we losing habitat, but habitat that we already have is actually degrading for a variety of reasons, and this can be due to a loss of native plants because of invasive plants that are coming and out-competing many of our native plants,” Andrle explained.

“Our habitat can be degrading due to habitat fragmentation, where our habitats are broken up into smaller parcels that can be more difficult for some varieties of animals to use, and then also due to pollution and things like the use of pesticides. These things all affect the landscapes in a variety of ways and make it more difficult for birds and other wildlife to thrive.”

Georgia Audubon’s bird advocacy and partnership with Beach Hollow Wildlife Farms plant nursery:

“We’re dedicated to building places where birds and people thrive,” said Head. “‘Georgia Grows Native for Birds’ Month is one of our community engagement events. It began years ago as just a wildlife sanctuary tour, which we still do, but we have had such a blossoming interest in the integral connection between birds and native plants that it’s kind of become a month-long celebration, and so we offer all different opportunities for people to engage with Georgia Audubon and learn more about how planting natives in their landscape can attract birds.”

“We have everything from orange milkweed and Joe Pye weed and sunchokes and Great Blue Lobelia, to vines like passion vine and… shrubs like American beautyberry, redbuds, different hollies, native hollies, spicebush,” Head said. “So all sorts of offerings, and that sale will be open until September the 25th. You order online, and then you can arrange to pick up the first weekend in October, either in Decatur or in Athens.”

Unsung heroes like the oak tree and the chimney swift:

“The flagship species that really does a great job showing the connection between birds and plants are oak trees, and Georgia is actually home to an incredible diversity of oak trees. In the United States, we have some of the highest biodiversity of oak tree species, and oaks are special because they support over 500 different species of butterfly and moth alone, and that’s not including other insects,” said Andrle. “I think it’s over 95% of birds here in North America need insects to successfully raise their young.”

“The chimney swift… is a bird that relies very heavily on insects. It’s what we call an aerial insectivore, and Georgia Audubon focused on building chimney swift towers to replicate where they would nest in the wild. They’d nest in tree cavities, and as people built houses here in North America, they started nesting in chimneys. And now people aren’t building chimneys… so these cavities that the birds have been using have been disappearing,” Andrle said.

“Anything we can do to support insects will also directly help that species because they rely so heavily on them, and they’re a natural source of decreasing the mosquito populations that we seem very worried about.”

More on this month’s events related to Georgia Audubon’s “Georgia Grows Native for Birds” Month can be found at