Landscaping for Wildlife
The key to attracting wildlife is to provide for their basic needs. By providing one or all of the following habitat attributes you’ll be a successful “habitat manager”.
Food: seeds, berries, nuts, flower nectar and insects
A variety of food sources in your yard will encourage many kinds of wildlife. The key here is having a diverse selection of plants which will provide some seeds, berries, nuts, flower nectar or insects throughout all four seasons of the year. Insects are a major part of the diet of songbirds, so avoid insecticides. In addition to providing trees, shrubs and flowers as food sources, you’ll want to include a few bird feeders.
Water: birdbaths, drip faucets, ponds, streams
Animals will walk, fly or crawl great distances just for a drink of water. Water is essential! Having a well-placed birdbath, dripper or other water attraction in your yard will be a magnet in attracting wildlife of all kinds to your yard.
Shelter: trees, shrubs, brush piles, rock piles, snags
Wild animals need safe places to rest, escape danger, find shelter from weather and raise their young. Most animals will find shelter in trees and shrubs. Leaf litter and dead branches provide shelter for insects and amphibians. Putting in buffers of dense vegetation between wildlife areas and busy areas like streets and driveways creates a safety barrier. If possible, designate a special area of your yard exclusively for sensitive wildlife.
Is your backyard habitat large enough for wildlife? Most birds and mammals need much more total area than an average ¼ acre yard but that doesn’t mean they won’t visit or even nest in your yard. Plus, an animal’s space requirements may be less if the resources are abundant and concentrated in a good backyard habitat. Space requirements are all the more reason to encourage your neighbors to improve their yards for wildlife.
Things to Include in Landscaping for Wildlife:
Landscaping for wildlife is providing a wide variety of different types of plants. You will always want to provide several species of plants including grasses, flowers, trees and shrubs. This should include both deciduous and evergreen plants. Variety gives wildlife more to choose from so they are more likely to find what they need. A diversity in your choice of plants, “habitat diversity”, allows more animals to successfully coexist in your yard.
Most wildlife, especially birds, feed, rest or nest only at certain heights. Having many layers of vegetation allows wildlife to select the layer that suits them best. Missing plant layers equals missing bird species. Layering can be accomplished by placing the tallest trees at the edges of your property and putting smaller deciduous trees in front of them. This process is continued in a stair-step fashion followed with tall shrubs, then finally the ground covers. Plants and ground covers that are tolerant of shade would be planted underneath the taller plants.
Edges occur where one area or habitat type meets another. By having many layers of vegetation with curved or irregular borders as well as including secluded hiding places, you focus on the area where the greatest variety of wildlife will be found. The edges of your yard, such as between your lawn and trees, can beautifully resemble natural wildlife areas.
The best habitat for native wildlife is one with native plants, plants that have evolved and occur naturally in your area. Native plants thrive in our gardens because they are more closely matched to our local soils, climate and wildlife. They often need less watering, spraying, pruning and fertilizing than non-native plants. Because native plants have evolved in our area, they provide the best food, shelter and diversity needed by native wildlife.