We want wildlife in our backyards because, as was said in Episode 9 of Yard Talk, “A beautiful backyard without wildlife is like a stage without actors”.
By creating good habitat, we become good stewards of the land and we help care for the ecosystem of which we are part. With a little observation, research, patience and tolerance we can woo wildlife into our residential landscapes.
This is what wildlife needs:
We mostly think of birds when we consider feeding wildlife. Bird feeders are a great way to supply mostly seeds for birds; be sure to keep feeders clean. But many birds eat insects, and many more birds feed their young almost exclusively insects. See a list of insects birds eat at How to Attract Bug-eating Birds. Other critters also eat insects, including other insects. The best way to attract insects to your yard is to have native plants. Interestingly, very many insects larval stage can only consume one or a handful of very specific plants. And quite often, those plants must be natives. Adding even a few native plants to your landscape can help wildlife, specifically birds and insects, feel at home.
Of course, birds, pollinators and other critters are used to natural water sources. But because most of us in residential situations don’t have natural water on-site, we need to go to plan B. Ponds are great, but expensive and can require a lot of maintenance. Moving water is very attractive to many birds so waterfall features are desirable. But again, they can be expensive to install and maintain. Birdbaths and smaller recirculating water features can be just the ticket. But whatever you choose, your water feature should have at least one side or area that is a very gently sloping so that very small birds and insects have a way to get out if they get in over their head. Be sure to keep any water features clean.
Critters need safety from predators, a place to perch, and a place to raise young. Most people think of birdhouses as shelter. But wildlife is more than just birds, and birds, insects and other types of wildlife will happily take up residence in brush piles, tree snags, and even rock piles.
All living things need space to thrive. Humans encroach more and more into areas that were the sole domain of wildlife. We can compensate just a little bit by reducing the size of our lawns and utilizing some native plants in our residential landscapes.
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