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TN: Improving Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat


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Improving Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat

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  • 1. Agricultural Extension Service The University of Tennessee PB1633Improving Your BackyardWildlife Habitat 1
  • 2. Table of Contents Wildlife Needs.......................................................................................................................................... 3 Wildlife Management Concepts ............................................................................................................... 3 Edge, Vertical Structure and Interspersion ............................................................................................... 4 Draw a Map .............................................................................................................................................. 5 Putting It All Together.............................................................................................................................. 6 Benefits of Landscaping for Wildlife ....................................................................................................... 6 What Should You Plant?........................................................................................................................... 6 Table 1 - Native trees and shrubs beneficial to wildlife ........................................................................ 7 Table 2 - Native herbaceous plants that attract hummingbirds and butterflies...................................... 8 Providing Shelter ...................................................................................................................................... 8 Feeders and Nest Boxes ........................................................................................................................... 9 Table 3 - Food preferences of birds common to backyard feeders in Tennessee ................................ 10 SPECIAL CASE: The Eastern Bluebird ................................................................................................ 11 Table 4 - Dimensions of nest boxes.................................................................................................... 13 Water....................................................................................................................................................... 14 Conclusion.............................................................................................................................................. 15 2
  • 3. Improving Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat Craig A. Harper, Assistant Professor Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries W ildlife viewing is becoming one of the most popular forms of outdoor recreation in America. Ob-serving wildlife in one’s own backyard is not onlyenjoyable, but convenient as well. In some areas (espe- not be good for another. For example, squirrels will not get much benefit from a large lawn or pasture where bluebirds are thriving on insects. Also, some mammals (e.g., deer and bears) need a much larger area to meet their habitat requirements than others (e.g., rabbits or chipmunks) do. There is, however,cially rural settings), excellent wildlife habitat exists overlap in many habitat requirements. Many wild-and viewing opportunities can be abundant. However, life species benefit from a fruit-producing shrub orin a growing number of areas (especially suburbia), bird feeder and a multitude of species will use thewildlife habitat has deteriorated or been destroyed standing dead oak at the edge of your yard or fieldentirely. This is particularly true in many subdivisions for nesting, denning, roosting, perching and feeding.where the landscape was bulldozed and leveled-off Wildlife Managementprior to home construction. In either case, there are lotsof ways to improve wildlife habitat around your home. ConceptsWildlife Needs Before starting a plan to improve wildlife habi- Wildlife have four basic requirements: food, tat around your home, there are some basic conceptscover, water and space. Considering these require- of wildlife management you should understand.ments, you can see where the area around your Realizing that not all species have the same habitathome may be deficient in one or more of these. In requirements, a diversity of habitats and vegetativemost cases you can improve deficiencies; how- types will benefit more wildlife species than an areaever, in some cases, because of physical or spatial with homogenous vegetative cover. Increased plantlimitations, you will not. These four basic habitat diversity gives rise to increased animal diversity,requirements differ (to some degree) with each where diversity is the number of species, not thewildlife species. What is good for one species may number of individuals. Food, cover, water and space 3
  • 4. resources are finiteand can be utilized Wildlife Figure 3. Edge is increased verticallycompletely. To this by “stair stepping”end, an area can sup- vegetation starting withport only so many low-growing herbaceousanimals, which is vegetation, then shrubs,expressed as the carry- small trees and large capacity (Figure Water Cover1). In many areas, the Foodcarrying capacity hasbeen reached, yet noanimals are present!That is because thereis insufficient habitatto support any wild-life. This is whereactivities for improve-ment are much needed Figure 1.and results can be astonishing. ing on. Likewise, a fox is going to hunt most often where the rabbit is — near the “edge!” Creating anEdge, Vertical Structure irregular border (as opposed to a straight one) with your yard and ornamental plantings is the easiestand Interspersion way to increase the amount of edge near your home “Edge” is where two or more habitats come (Figure 2).together. For example, an edge exists where your Edge is represented on both a horizontal andyard meets the woodlot. Most often, many wildlife vertical plane. Vertical structure is represented byspecies are found here. The reason these species different layers of vegetation extending from theare associated with edges is because both food ground up to the tree canopy (Figure 3). Vertical struc-AND cover are in close proximity. Escaping a hawk ture is important for several reasons. Most importantly,or house cat is much easier for a rabbit if some it represents different layers of cover for protection,brushy cover is near the clover and grass it’s feed- nesting, roosting and feeding for all kinds of animals HouseFigure 2. You can increase the amount of edge by creating irregular borders. 4
  • 5. Figure 4. Establishing islandsin your yard is a great wayto increase edge and promotediversity.andsomespecies “specialize” in beingable to exploit a particular layer.Many small mammals and birds (e.g.,eastern towhees and brown thrashers) feed on boundariesthe ground amongst brush and low vegetation. Caro- and draw in yourlina wrens, northern cardinals and northern mocking- house, driveway, fence, shed and then your shrub-birds forage for food in low-growing shrubs and trees. bery. Continue by identifying the location of allRed-eyed vireos, scarlet tanagers and yellow-throated trees, bushes, bird feeders, birdbaths, etc. Oncewarblers forage in the canopy of mature stands. Some completed, step off distances (e.g., from house tospecies (e.g., wild turkeys) prefer areas where visibility road, shed to garden, etc.) to get a rough check ofis good and the vegetation is not too dense. Others your map and correct any sign of errors regarding(e.g., rabbits) prefer areas with low-growing dense scale. Now, what do you have? Look at the habitatvegetation and reduced visibility. “holes” on your map and study the arrangement of Interspersion is best described as the arrange- vegetation. This will help you see where you shouldment of habitats. A mixture of habitats arranged in begin working.a patchwork mosaic provides good interspersion.Make your yard and surrounding area more at-tractive for wildlife by arranging different habitatsclose to one another. An island of wildflowers orshrubbery in your yard increases interspersion whilebreaking up large expanses of grass (Figure 4).Draw a Map One of the first steps in providing increasedhabitat for wildlife in your backyard is to draw amap of the area surrounding your home (Figure 5).As accurately as you can, start with your property Figure 5. Drawing of a backyard. 5
  • 6. Putting It All Together Wind Sun Although every area is unique, most back-yards need more wildlife-friendly plants arrangedto increase interspersion and edge. Planting trees,shrubs and herbaceous plants that are beneficial towildlife usually is the single most important thingyou can do to improve wildlife habitat around yourhome. Planting suitable plants in the appropriateplaces in the proper arrangement will benefit wild-life throughout the year. Food, cover and, to somedegree, space will be provided automatically. As you develop a plan to landscape your area Figure 6. Planting the correct species in thefor wildlife, keep edge and interspersion in mind. proper arrangement can help conserve energy.If you are starting from scratch, consider plantingthe tallest trees along the outside border of youryard and continue in toward the center of your yard allow the sun’s warming rays to reach your homein a stair-step fashion with smaller trees, then large and help reduce your heating bill. Soil conservationshrubs, small shrubs and finally herbaceous plants also is realized by landscaping for wildlife. Bird-(see Figure 3) . If woods already surround your watching and photographic opportunities are greatlyhouse, consider planting smaller trees and shrubs increased by landscaping in a wildlife-friendlyat the edge of your yard and the woods, creating manner. Further, what better place is there to raisewhat is called a “soft” edge. That is, the transition your children than one in which they can observebetween the woods and your yard is gradual, not wildlife and learn about the natural world in theirsudden. This makes the area attractive to many more own backyard? In addition, the beauty created byspecies of wildlife. Remember that a diversity of your landscaping efforts may increase the value ofvegetation gives rise to a diversity of wildlife. your home and property.Benefits of Landscaping What Should You Plant?for Wildlife First, consider planting trees and shrubs native to Tennessee because native species are well adapted Many benefits are realized when landscaping to the soils and climate of our area (Table 1). Therefor wildlife. Obviously, wildlife will benefit from is less risk in native plants succumbing to droughthabitat enhancement, but you will benefit as well. and disease (except for exotic diseases) and theyBy landscaping for wildlife, you can benefit by usually require less cultural attention than exoticconserving energy and reducing your heating and species. Second, be aware of each plant species’cooling bill (Figure 6). Plant conifers as a wind- requirements for sunlight, soil type, moisture andbreak on the north and west sides of your property pH. Contact your county Extension agent for helpto protect from chilling winter storms. Evergreen concerning site requirements if you are not sure.trees and shrubs act as insulators for birds and mam- When deciding which species to plant, keep inmals, protecting them from bitter winds and freez- mind the year-round needs of wildlife. Plants thating precipitation. Foraging spots often can be found benefit wildlife most in spring and summer may notunder evergreens when snow covers the surrounding benefit wildlife in fall and winter. Be sure to plant a area. On the south side variety of species that will benefit wildlife during all of your property, plant seasons. Foods most often consumed by birds and deciduous trees that small mammals during spring and summer include produce plenty of shade soft mast (i.e., soft fleshy fruits, e.g., drupes, ber- for a cooling effect in ries and pomes), invertebrates (e.g., beetles, bugs, the summer. During worms, snails and flies), leafy greens and tender winter, these trees will shoots of rapidly growing twigs. These foods are lose their leaves and relatively high in protein and minerals, both of 6
  • 7. Table 1. Native trees and shrubs beneficial to wildlife.Species* Form Wildlife Benefit (cover, fruit-type)American beautyberry (Callicar pa) deciduous shrub drupesAmerican beech (Fagus) deciduous tree nutsAmerican holly (Ilex) evergreen tree winter cover, berriesAmerican mountain ash (Sorbus) deciduous tree pomesApple (Malus) deciduous tree pomesBlackberry and raspberry (Rubus) deciduous shrub aggregates of drupeletsBlackgum (Nyssa) deciduous tree drupesBlueberry (Vaccinium) deciduous shrub berriesCherry (Prunus) deciduous tree drupesChinquapin (Castanea) deciduous shrub/tree nutsCrab-apple (Malus) deciduous tree pomesDevils walking stick (Aralia) deciduous shrub drupesDogwood (Cornus) deciduous tree drupesEastern hemlock (Tsuga) evergreen tree winter coverEastern redcedar (Juniperus) evergreen tree winter coverElderberry (Sambucus) deciduous shrub drupesFirethorn (Pyracantha) evergreen shrub pomes, winter coverFringe-tree (Chionanthus) deciduous shrub drupeHackberry (Celtis) deciduous tree drupesHawthorn (Crataegus) deciduous shrub pomesHazel-nut (Cor ylus) deciduous shrub nutsHickory (Car ya) deciduous tree nutsHoney locust (Gleditsia) deciduous tree legumesHuckleberries (Gaylussacia) deciduous shrub berriesMountain laurel (Kalmia) evergreen shrub winter coverOak (Quercus) deciduous tree acornsPawpaw (Asimina) deciduous tree aggregate of berry-like structuresPersimmon (Diospyros) deciduous tree berriesPine (esp. white pine; Pinus) evergreen tree winter cover, seedsPlum (Prunus) deciduous tree drupesRed mulberry (Morus) deciduous tree drupesRhododendron (Rhododendron) evergreen shrub winter coverServiceberry (Amelanchier) deciduous tree pomesSouthern magnolia (Magnolia) evergreen tree winter coverSpicebush (Lindera) deciduous shrub drupesStaghorn sumac (Rhus) deciduous shrub drupesStrawberry-bush (Euonymus) deciduous shrub seedsViburnum (Viburnum) deciduous shrub drupesVirginia creeper (Par thenocissus) deciduous vine berries* Check with county Extension personnel regarding species vigor in your area, recommended planting techniques, soil conditions, etc. Genus is provided in ( ). 7
  • 8. which are needed during this time of year when around homes, other than lawn grasses, is com-many animals (particularly the young) are growing prised of ornamental plantings, often includingrapidly. exotic flowering species. Many flowering herba- As fall and winter arrive, many wildlife ceous species can be planted specifically to attractspecies seen around the house in spring and sum- hummingbirds and butterflies. When plantingmer disappear, either hibernating or migrating to ornamentals for cover, keep the concept of verticalwarmer, more hospitable places. For those that structure in mind. More wildlife species will benefitstay, fall and winter present difficult challenges, if herbaceous plants are arranged to provide a “soft”such as finding shelter from harsh weather and edge. Holistically, herbaceous plants around yourhigh-energy food. Foods relished during the fall yard benefit wildlife more as a source of cover thanand winter seasons include hard mast (i.e., acorns forage, though some species, especially white-tailedand nuts), seeds, twigs, bulbs, invertebrates and deer and rabbits, may browse these plants. Herba-cool-season grasses and legumes. Foods high in ceous species you can use to attract hummingbirdscarbohydrates and fat are at a premium during and butterflies are listed in Table 2.winter, as an animal’s energy reserves are depletedthrough cold winter months. Selected trees andshrubs deserving consideration when landscaping Providing Shelterfor wildlife habitat improvement around your In addition to landscaping for food and cover,home are listed in Table 1. there are more possibilities to consider. When you A wide variety of herbaceous plants are used finish limbing and pruning work around the houseby wildlife. Most of the herbaceous vegetation or cutting up storm damage, pile the material adja- Table 2. Native herbaceous plants that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Species Habit Wildlife Benefit Aster (Aster) annual butterfly Bergamot (Monarda) perennial butterfly/hummingbird Black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia) annual butterfly Blazingstar (Liatris) perennial butterfly/hummingbird Butterflyweed (Asclepias) perennial butterfly/hummingbird Cardinal flower (Lobelia) perennial butterfly/hummingbird Columbine (Aquilegia) perennial butterfly/hummingbird Coneflower (Echinacea) perennial butterfly Evening primrose (Oenothera) perennial butterfly/hummingbird Goldenrod (Solidago) perennial butterfly Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium) perennial butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias) perennial butterfly Sedges (Carex) perennial butterfly Spotted touch-me-not annual butterfly/hummingbird (or jewelweed; Impatiens) Sunflower (Helianthus) perennial butterfly Tickseed sunflower (Bidens) perennial butterfly Turks cap lily (Lilium) perennial hummingbird Violets (Viola) perennial butterfly 8
  • 9. cent to a nearby woodlot. Brushpiles are magnets lizards, skinks and tree-for lots of birds (foraging for insects), small mam- frogs. Unless the snagmals (e.g., rabbits and chipmunks) and reptiles (yes, is a potential hazardthis includes snakes!). To construct a brushpile for to your home or otherwildlife, place the largest limbs (or logs) on the structural property, letbottom and pile the smaller brush on top in a loose it stand and watch whatfashion (Figure 7). This provides dens and crevices happens. You will befor wildlife under the protection of brushy cover. amazed at how manyIf you do not have any large limbs or logs, you can wildlife residents andpile smaller brush on top of sections of corrugated visitors it receives.pipe. After the holidays, your Christmas tree makesa wonderful addition to the top of the brushpile.As you tend your garden in the spring, instead of Feeders andthrowing rocks wildly into adjacent brush or woods, Nest Boxescreate a rockpile. Many species (e.g., chipmunks, In addition to plantingfoxes, rabbits, raccoons and snakes) will benefit trees and shrubs thatfrom your effort. produce food and cover Additional habitat for many species of birds, for wildlife, feedersmammals, reptiles and amphibians is provided by and nest boxes can Figure 8. Standing deadcavities in trees, particularly dead, standing trees be placed through- trees (snags) attract many(called snags; Figure 8). These structures provide out your property to species of wildlife.nesting, denning and roosting sites for species such further provide foras bluebirds, owls, wrens, flycatchers, wood ducks, wildlife around yournuthatches, chickadees, swallows, titmice, wood- house. Much has been written concerning backyardpeckers, vultures, black bears, squirrels, raccoons, feeders and nest boxes, with many designs andbats, black rat snakes and garter snakes. Snags also varieties available. For comprehensive informationserve as perching sites for eagles, hawks, owls, vul- on feeding birds and feeder designs, refer to Wildtures, herons and kingbirds and feeding about Birds by Carrol Henderson, availablesites for brown creepers, nuthatches, through the Minnesota Department ofkingbirds, wood- Natural Resources (800)peckers, gnat- 657-3757 or (612)catchers, 297-3000. Detailed information on nest boxes and other nesting structures and how to construct them is provided in Woodworking for Wildlife: Homes for Birds and Mammals, also by Carrol Henderson. A version adapted for Tennessee is available through the TWRA and is titled, Wood- work ing for Wild life in Ten- nes see, and is available by con- tact ing the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Figure 7. Brushpile designed for wildlife. (800) 262-6704. 9
  • 10. Whichever type of feeder(s) you use, there are white proso millet and all can feed from platformsome key points to consider. First, there is no best or and fly-through feeders (Figure 9). Put out severalworst time to begin feeding; however, if you begin a different types of foods — part of the fun is findingfeeding program in the fall/winter months, continue out who will eat what! Don’t forget to try suet feed-until spring. Wildlife around your house will begin ers, thistle, fruit halves nailed to a tree or post, peanutto depend on the food provided—that is why they are butter smeared on the side of a tree and old breadsthere! You can continue feeding wildlife throughout and cakes. This should ensure a diversity of birdsthe year if desired. Another point to keep in mind is around your home. Feeders should be cleaned period-to beware of house cats! They are extremely profi- ically with hot, soapy water fortified with a capful ofcient predators and can severely reduce the number disinfectant (10 percent bleach); rinse well. Bottomsof birds and small mammals around your house. of feeders should have small holes drilled in (if theyResearch has shown that house cats (both feral and are not screen bottoms) to facilitate moisture evapo-pets) kill hundreds of thousands of birds and untold ration and reduce mildew. If you enjoy watchingnumbers of mammals each year. In many cases, the wildlife visiting your feeders, be sure to place themprey is not consumed, only killed because of the in view of a window or glass sliding door. However,cat’s innate sense to hunt. If you have a cat, consider remember sites under feeders may be very messykeeping it inside and/or putting a bell on its collar. with spilled seeds and droppings, which can attractAll feral cats seen in your area should be reported to mice and rats. Hence, your back porch or patio mayyour local animal shelter for immediate capture and not be the best place for a feeder. Listed in Table 3removal. Otherwise, you are doing a disservice to our are foods preferred by birds that frequent backyardnative wildlife populations. House cats (whether feral feeders in Tennessee.or not) are NOT natural predators; they are exotic European starlings are especially attracted toanimals, not native to North America. peanut hearts, so you may not want to offer them You can cater to the species you prefer by using at your feeders. Also, note that it is legal to killselective feeder designs and seeds. Most birds will exotic bird pests such as starlings and house spar-eagerly consume black oil-type sunflower seeds and rows. If you consider squirrels a problem at bird Table 3. Food preferences of birds common to backyard feeders in Tennessee. Species Preferred Food mourning doves black oil-type sunflower seeds, white proso millet woodpeckers, chickadees, black oil-type sunflower seeds, cracked nuts, shelled and broken peanuts, titmice, nuthatches bread crumbs, suet blue jay sunflower seeds (all types), peanuts, cracked nuts and corn, suet mockingbirds, brown thrashers, cut apples, oranges, raisins and bread crumbs robins, thrushes, catbirds cardinals sunflower seeds (all types), cracked corn, shelled and broken peanuts white proso millet, sunflower seeds (all types), cracked corn, and shelled Eastern towhees and broken peanuts evening grosbeak sunflower seeds (all types), cracked corn, and shelled and broken peanuts goldfinches niger thistle, hulled sunflower seeds, black oil-type sunflower seeds house finch black oil-type sunflower seeds, niger thistle purple finch sunflower seeds (all types) sparrows, juncos white proso millet, black oil-type sunflower seeds, wheat, bread crumbs grackles hulled sunflower seeds (all types) 10
  • 11. SPECIAL CASE: The Eastern BluebirdT he Eastern Bluebird is a Generally, 3/4-inch lumber is boxes on fence posts or tree trunks songbird native to Tennessee used to construct nest boxes. The 4 to 6 feet above the ground facing whose bright coloration and dimensions can vary slightly EX- open terrain, optimally facing eastcheerful song make it a favorite CEPT for the entrance hole, which to protect the entrance hole fromamong most landowners. To attract must be 11/2 inches. If you make prevailing wind and rain. “Predatorbluebirds around your home, it is the entrance hole smaller than 11/2 guards” (conical shields) made ofnecessary to provide them with inches, bluebirds will not be able to sheet metal can be wrapped aroundnesting cover. Bluebirds primarily enter. By making the entrance hole the tree or post just below the nestare insectivorous birds and typically no larger than 11/2 inches, the box is box to minimize predation fromdo not feed at bird feeders. Thus, the somewhat species selective, exclud- house cats, snakes and way to attract them is by erect- ing larger, unwanted birds, such To help keep wasps out of bluebirding nest boxes. as the European starling. House boxes, try nailing a piece of the Over the past few decades, blue- sparrows still may be a problem; sticky strips commonly sold for fliesbirds have experienced a decline in however, since they are unprotected, on the inside of the box top. Nestnumbers. A primary reason for this invasive, non-native birds, you may boxes should be erected in late win-decline is a lack of suitable nesting shoot them or destroy their nests at ter, since nesting may begin as earlysites. Naturally, bluebirds nest in cavi- will. Also, nest boxes for bluebirds as late February or early March.ties of trees or fence posts created by should NOT have a perch installed Because of the territorial nature ofwoodpeckers or decay. In many areas, just below the entrance hole. Blue- bluebirds, boxes should be at leastsuitable nesting cavities can be scarce birds do not need perches, which 100 yards apart.or even non-existent. Reproduction in only serve to attract house sparrows. Bluebirds may produce two tothese areas is predictably low. In addi- It is important to construct nest four broods per year. Females willtion, the house sparrow and European boxes so it is possible to get into lay a clutch of four to six light-bluestarling (two exotic species from Eur- them for cleaning and destroying eggs and incubate them approxi-asia) now compete with bluebirds for nests of unwanted birds such as mately 12 days. Upon hatching,nesting cavities. As a result, even if house sparrows. This is accom- bluebird chicks remain in the nestsuitable nesting cavities are available, plished by attaching a hinge to the for about 15 days before fledging.use by bluebirds is limited because of top of the front panel of the box. A Once the fledglings leave the nest,the aggressive nature of the non-native small wood-screw inserted half-way the male tends to them for severalbirds. into the bottom of the front panel days while they learn to fly and Before you build and erect nest can serve as a “handle” to pull the search for grasshoppers, crickets,boxes for bluebirds, there are some front of the box up and open so you beetles, flies and other insects.important guidelines that should be can get inside. Install a small clasp Meanwhile, the female prepares thefollowed. To keep competition from to keep the front panel closed. To nest for a second clutch.starlings at a minimum, dimensions allow for drainage and airflow, a few Bluebirds that nest in Tennesseeof nest boxes should be: 1/ -inch holes may be drilled into 8 typically stay near their nesting the bottom of the box and at the top area all year, while bluebirds fromFloor 5 inches x 6 inchesBack 6 inches x 18 inches of the sides. Other structures (e.g., northern states migrate southward (extra length to gourds, cans, etc.) also can serve as during winter. Over-wintering here allow nailing on nesting cavities for bluebirds. Just in Tennessee can be a problem for post or tree) be sure to keep the entrance hole bluebirds during harsh winters, asFront 6 inches x 9 inches 11/2 inches in diameter. some winter mortality may occur.Sides 5 inches x 9 inches Bluebirds prefer open spaces, On particularly cold nights, several in the front and 10 such as pastures, orchards, road- bluebirds may roost together in a inches in the back sides, yards and parks where insects single nest box to conserve heat.Top 6 inches x 7 inches are abundant. Creating open-type (to provide a little overhang in the front) areas around or near your home will increase the amount of foragingEntrance hole 11/2 inches in habitat for bluebirds. When nest diameter; 6 inches boxes are placed in these optimal above the floor of habitats, bluebird populations can the box increase quite rapidly. Mount nest 11
  • 12. weekly. Wash hummingbird feeders using hot water with a little vinegar added to discourage mold. Hummingbird feeders should be scrubbed with a bottlebrush and rinsed thoroughly before refilling with “nectar.” If insects are attracted to your hum- mingbird feeder, don’t despair; in addition to nectar, hummingbirds feed upon insects for protein. Nest boxes are another structural component important in improving wildlife habitat around your home. Although most people associate nest boxes with bluebirds, many other wildlife species (in- cluding mammals) benefit also. Species such as gray squirrels, flying squirrels, bats and screech owls willFigure 9. Fly-through feeders are popular with accept and use nest boxes. In fact, all of the cavity-many people and attract many different bird nesting species listed previously may be found inspecies. nest boxes if dimensions are appropriate (Table 4). Nest boxes for birds should be erected in late win- ter, awaiting arrival of spring migrants. Nest boxes should be inspected, cleaned out and repaired if nec- feeders, provide them with some food of their own. essary before each nesting season. While it is impor- Unshelled (left on the cob) corn skewered on a long tant that nest boxes be inspected prior to the nesting nail driven into a tree or post sometimes will keep season, you should not inspect the boxes once birds their attention away from the bird feeder. If not, (or other wildlife) have begun using them. By do- “squirrel-proof” feeders are available commercially ing so, you risk causing the birds to desert their nest or you can use your imagination in “squirrel-proof- and/or young. The exception to this is when unwant- ing” your bird feeder. (Hint: metal flashing or vinyl ed, invasive species (e.g., house sparrows and star- siding wrapped around the feeder post usually lings) use your nest boxes—in which case their nests works. Good luck matching wits; squirrels are quite should be destroyed. After chicks fledge, do not try ingenious at getting to feeders!) to catch them, even if they are lying on the ground, Hummingbirds require a special type of seemingly helpless. The adults are nearby, waiting feeder. Hummingbird “nectar” is four parts water to for you to leave and quit bothering them. It is best to one part sugar. It is best to boil water before add- leave the animals alone and let nature take its course. ing the sugar so it will dissolve well. If you make For those interested in providing bats with relatively large quantities of this solution, store suitable roosting sites, a new “bat house” has been unused portions in the refrigerator. Hummingbird designed by personnel from the Daniel Boone “nectar” should not contain honey because of the National Forest in Kentucky (Figure 10). These risk of fungal diseases. You can feed hummingbirds “post bat houses” reportedly are being used at a as long as they visit the feeder. You will NOT keep much higher rate than previous designs, as they are hummingbirds from migrating by keeping feed- more like the bats’ natural summer roost sites. Dan ers out past Labor Day. Also, there is no evidence Dourson and John MacGregor of the Daniel Boone that putting red food-coloring dye in the solution National Forest recommend placing bat houses in harms hummingbirds, however, since the safety of the following habitats: upland forest stands with an food-coloring dye is in question, it may be best not open canopy on slopes facing south or southwest; to use it in “nectar.” Most hummingbird feeders small openings along edge-habitat near ponds; are colored red to attract the birds so food-coloring along riparian zones (streams and creeks), forest dye is not needed anyway. If your feeder does not roads, powerline rights-of-ways; or the edge of have any color, you can paint a red flower or put red forest clearcuts and small forest gaps. Relatively tape around the feeder. CAUTION: sugar water will open areas where the bat houses can receive more ferment when left in the hot sun. Fermented nectar sunlight are preferred. Bat houses are less likely is deadly for hummingbirds. Do not put out a hum- to be used when placed near homes, barns or other mingbird feeder if you are not willing to clean it buildings. 12
  • 13. TABLE 4 - Dimensions of nest boxes for various wildlife species, height they should be placed above ground and preferred habitat. Entrance Height above Preferred Floor of Depth of above Diameter of Ground or Habitat Cavity Cavity Floor Entrance Water (W) Codes Species Inches Inches Inches Inches FeetHouse Wren 4x4 6-8 4-6 1 - 1 1/4 5 - 10 2, 7Carolina Chickadee 4x4 9 7 1 1/8 5 - 15 2Bewick’s Wren 4x4 6-8 4-6 1 1/4 5 - 10 2, 7Tufted Titmouse 4x4 9 7 1 1/4 5 - 15 2Downy Woodpecker 4x4 9 7 1 1/4 5 - 15 2Prothonotary Warbler 4x4 6 4 1 3/8 5 - 12, (W) 3, 5Nuthatches 4x4 9 7 1 3/8 5 - 15 2Carolina Wren 4x4 6-8 4-6 *1 1/2 5 - 10 2, 7Eastern Bluebird 4x4 8 - 12 6 - 10 *1 1/2 5-6 1Tree Swallow 5x5 6-8 4-6 *1 1/2 10 - 30 1Hairy Woodpecker 6x6 12 - 15 9 - 12 1 5/8 12 - 20 2Great-Crested 6x6 8 - 10 6-8 1 3/4 8 - 10 1, 2FlycatcherRed-headed 6x6 12 9 2 10 - 20 2WoodpeckerPurple Martin 6x6 6 1 2 1/4 10 - 20 1Flicker 7x7 16 - 18 14 - 16 2 1/2 6 - 30 1, 2Screech Owl (alsogray squirrel and 8x8 12 - 15 9 - 12 3 10 - 30 2flying squirrel)American Kestrel 8x8 12 - 15 9 - 12 3 10 - 30 1,4Barn Owl 10x18 15 - 18 0-4 6 12 - 18 4Wood Duck 12x12 22 17 3x4 oval 10 - 20, (W) 3, 5 2 2Eastern Phoebe 6x6 6( ) () 8 - 12 8 - 20 7, 8Barn Swallow 6x6 6(2) (2) 8 - 12 8 - 20 7, 8 2 2Robin 6x8 8( ) () 6 - 15 5 - 10 7*Precise measurement required; if diameter over 1-1/2 inches, starlings may take the box over.1Brown-headed and Pygmy Nuthatches (1-1/8), Red-breasted Nuthatch (1-1/4) and White-breasted Nuthatch (1-3/8) will always use the same box. However, the smaller opening sizes where appropriate may discourage use by House sparrows.2One or more sides open.3Preferred habitat codes. The numbers in the last column of Table 4 refers to the habitat types listed here:1. Open areas in the sun (not shaded permanently by trees), pastures, fields or golf courses.2. Woodland clearings or the edge of woods.3. Above water, or if on land, the entrance should face water.4. On trunks of large tree, or high in little-used parts of barns, silos, water towers or church steeples.5. Moist forest bottomlands, flooded river valleys, swamps.6. Dry open woods and woods edges.7. Back yards, near buildings.8. Near water, under bridges, barns. 13
  • 14. Water Water sources are provided in a variety of Poplar or pine ways, ranging from a simple birdbath to a small pond created with wildlife in mind. Regardless of source, water is an essential component of wild- 3 Galvanized screws Shingle roofing life habitat and provides necessities for wildlife in many ways. Obviously water provides refreshment for thirsty animals; however, there are other bene- fits you may not realize. Depending on the size and nature of the water source, some wildlife species may find food there. Raccoons forage for crawdads Screened vent in shallow pools and creeks; herons and kingfishers 1/2" to 3/4" feed upon small fish; and frogs, dragonflies, whip- Bats enter in diameter and exit poorwills, tree swallows, purple martins, night- Cut top of hawks and bats forage on the many flying insects 4" x 4" post found above a small pond. For some species (e.g., 4" x 4" many frogs, toads and salamanders), water is nec- rough-cut essary for reproduction, providing a place to lay oak. 12 - 16 eggs and for tadpoles to develop. In addition, some ft. long. wildlife species require water for a substrate to live Slightly rounded in (i.e., fish, many turtles, frogs and salamanders). post corners A pond is a unique ecosystem, providing habitat for an array of wildlife species that simply would not be there otherwise and enhancing conditions for many terrestrial species. Whether you have a birdbath, a small pond 5 Additional cuts feet in diameter or a 1/4-acre pond, there are some could be made to increase things to consider and keep in mind. It is best if the roosting area. water source is located in the shade at least part of the day. Water will remain cooler and not become stagnant as quickly as if it were in full sunlight all day. To make a small pool most attractive for wild- 3/4" wood spacer life, make sure there is some cover nearby (within attached with lug bolts. about 10-20 feet). This will make the animals using the water source feel more secure and render it available to more species. Keep birdbaths at least 3 feet above ground level (for protection from cats) and have a tree or some type of perch nearby for birds. In addition, the edge and bottom of birdbaths should be rough to provide secure footing. Water 2 1/2 - 3 ft depth should be shallow, especially around the in ground edges, so birds can get in and splash about. If the edge or side of the water source is too steep, many birds will not use it. If you have a small pond, make sure part of the bank perimeter is free of tall vegetation to provide a place for birds to approach the water. Another important consideration is to keep the water flowing or moving for aeration. This can be accomplished by allowing the water toFigure 10. “Kentucky” bat houses (or "rocket run over rocks or by positioning the water intake soboxes") reportedly receive more use than previousdesigns. 14
  • 15. that it pours into the birdbath or pond. The sound ofmoving water attracts many birds and other wildlife Henderson, C. 1987. Landscaping for wildlife.that otherwise would not visit the pool. It is critical Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Non-to keep the water in your birdbath as clean and cool game Wildlife Program. St. Paul, possible. Allowing water to become stagnant andfilled with algae can be harmful to wildlife. Henderson, C. 1995. Wild about birds. Min- nesota Department of Natural Resources, NongameConclusion Wildlife Program. St. Paul, Minnesota. Improving wildlife habitat around your home Woodworking for wildlife in Tennessee. Avail-can be a very rewarding and invigorating expe- able from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agen-rience. While the aesthetic, recreational and bio- cy, Ellington Agricultural Center, P. O. Box 40747,logical benefits may be most obvious, the biggest Nashville, TN 37204.reward may be the educational experience gainedby children enjoying wildlife residing in and visit-ing their own backyards. Many folks are limited interms of opportunities to help conserve our wildliferesources. By working toward this effort in yourown backyard you can make the area around yourhome more interesting and attractive, and expe-rience the fruits of your labor through an increasedabundance and diversity of wildlife around you. Sources for information regarding back-yard wildlife management: Foote, L. E. and S. B. Jones. 1989. Nativeshrubs and woody vines of the Southeast. Land-scaping uses and identification. Timber Press.Portland, Oregon. Gardening with wildlife. Available from theNational Wildlife Federation, 1412 Sixteenth St.,N. W., Washington, D. C. 15
  • 16. PB1633-5M-11/99 PB1633-3M-3/03 E12-2015-00-081-00 E12-4915-00-019-03 The Agricultural Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race,religion, color, national origin, sex, age, disability or veteran status and is an Equal Opportunity Employer. COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and county governments cooperating in furtherance of Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Agricultural Extension Service Charles L. Norman, Dean 16