Components of a Nature habitat

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There are eight structural components and eight living or plant components to fulfill the needs of a habitat. These become your building blocks in establishing or enhancing a wildlife habitat.

There are eight structural components and eight living or plant components to fulfill the needs of a habitat. These become your building blocks in establishing or enhancing a wildlife habitat.

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  • 1. T here are eight structural components and eight living or plant components to fulfill the Components of a needs of a habitat. These become your building blocks in establishing or enhancing a wildlife habitat. Wildlife Habitat If you have all 16 components in your habitat, you will attract a For more nature habitat information Visit these helpful websites: multitude of different species of wildlife for viewing or A Plants Home photographing. A Birds Home A Homesteaders Home STRUCTURAL COMPONENTS OF A WILDLIFE HABITAT Feeders Feeders are used to supplement the foods provided by trees, shrubs, flowers, crops in food plots, vines, and ground covers. Most people set up feeding stations outside a window in the house where they can easily view the feeders and take photographs. In most areas of the country, you can attract 20 to 25 species of birds to feeders. The best all- around bird seed is black oil sunflower. It can be used in tray feeders, cylindrical and hopper feeders, plus it can be spread on the ground for ground feeding birds (and chipmunks and squirrels). s Cylindrical Feeders – may be made of plastic or metal. Small seed pods dispense niger thistle seeds which are preferred by goldfinches, house finches, and pine siskins. Once you learn the four elements of a wildlife habitat – Larger seed pods dispense food, water, cover and space – you can move on to the sunflower or seed mixes. A cap 16 components of a habitat. slips off the feeder for easily filling. When you become familiar with both the elements and s Hopper Feeders – may be components, you’ll have the information you need to made of wood, plastic, or enhance your habitat for years to come. metal and come in a variety of sizes. One side of the top© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 1 A Plants Home
  • 2. usually is hinged for easy filling the holes. If a metal feeder is resemble flowers where of sunflower or seed mixes. used, a bird’s tongue can hummingbirds harvest nectar. Metal hoppers sometimes freeze to the metal while It is best to scatter several have a counter-balanced feeding. You can buy suet feeders in your habitat as the platform which closes access cakes which can be put out at tiny birds are combative and to the seed when heavier birds any time or you can get will spend lots of time driving or squirrels attempt to feed. unrendered fat from most off other hummingbirds. The grocery stores to use when it feeders must be keep filled s Suet Feeders – may be a is cold outside (in warm with room temperature sugar mesh potato or onion bag, or temperatures, the fat can water (four parts of boiling made of metal like hardware become rancid). water to one part cane cloth. You can make one of sugar) and cleaned with a wood by drilling 1-1/2" holes in s Hummingbird Feeders – dilute solution of chlorine thick pieces of wood (such as usually are made from glass or bleach (soak for an hour and a 2x4) and push the suet into plastic. They are red in color to rinse) several times a week in hot weather. Red food coloring is not necessary. s Squirrel Feeders – can be Sixteen Components of Wildlife Habitat made by mounting ears of corn on long spikes that are – Landscaping for Wildlife fastened to decks or trees away from your bird feeders. Feeders Squirrels can damage nearly any type of feeder that is not “squirrel proof." The Institute sells a heavy-duty PVC Bird Postª feeder that is guaranteed squirrel-proof. s Fruit Feeders – can be made by forcing a large nail through half of an orange or apple and nailing it to a tree or post. The fruit will attract Baltimore orioles, red-bellied woodpeckers, catbirds, and red squirrels. Dust and Grit Dust and grit are important to Structural Plant birds. Pheasants, wild turkeys, Components Components and some species of songbirds will take a dust “bath" to control external parasites. The Institute recommends that you photocopy the components chart and put it up where you can see it from time to time. Then youÕll be able to channel your You can easily provide dust in thoughts toward coming up with really creative and exciting enhancement your backyard habitat by adding projects for your wildlife habitat or others. The chart is also a great tool to use finely pulverized soil to an area no when a neighbor, friend, or relative asks you how they can attract more wildlife more than 2 ft. in diameter. to their property.© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 2 A Plants Home
  • 3. Grit (coarse sand) is needed by birds in their gizzards to grind up their food. Some people add sand to their bird feed, while others just provide it in a tray near their feeding station. Water Water is just as important as food, but often is one of the factors limiting the presence of wildlife. If you have water, you will attract many more species of wildlife. Remember, dripping or flowing water is more attractive to wildlife than still water. And, s Ponds – can be lined with concrete, plastic, or rubber. If you want to shallow water is preferred over attract songbirds, ducks, frogs, toads, and salamanders, make it deep water by most wildlife. Water about 10 ft. across and 1 to 2 ft. deep. Placing soil on top of the liner can be provided in many forms: in the bottom of the pool, will make it possible to seed native aquatic plants such as cattail, water lily, arrowhead, marsh marigold, or s Bird Baths – can be plastic or duckweed. Or, you can plant in pots and place them on the bottom. concrete, heated or unheated, formal or as informal as an If you can accommodate a larger pond (30 to 40 ft. across), you’ll upturned garbage can lid. If be able to attract more wildlife such as crayfish, salamanders, you have a problem with cats newts, more species of frogs, garter snakes, birds, and turtles. killing your feeder and Construct at least one-third of the bank with a gradual incline songbirds, make sure the bird toward the deep point. Place a brush pile in the shallow water and bath is at least 15 ft. away you will attract frogs, toads, and salamanders who will lay their eggs from trees and shrubs, where there. Rocks placed along the water’s edge will serve as sunning cats can hide before pouncing. areas for turtles and snakes. A dripper or mister are good additions. Specially designed s Bogs and Wetlands – can be as simple as a mud puddle for heaters are available for bird butterflies to a sizable overflow area for your pond to a wetlands baths or you can go to a farm area fed by a spring or stream. These areas attract a wide variety of supply store and buy a heated species such as ducks, geese, grebes, herons, blackbirds, terns, dog dish for around $20. Be marsh wrens, muskrats, minks, raccoons, and many others. Follow sure to add a flat rock in the this rule of thumb – for each acre of wetlands, there should be two center where birds can stand to four acres of grassy nesting cover. while drinking and bathing. Salt Salt is essential in the diet of wildlife. Some species, including deer, moose, pine grosbeaks, and crossbills, will seek salt deposits. Others can satisfy their need from trace elements in their diet. Some states will allow residents to place salt blocks on their property, others will not. Another way to supply salt is to fill a burlap sack half full of granular salt and hang it from a tree where rain can leach the salt into the soil. Make sure the tree is one that you wouldn’t miss, as the salt will probably eventually kill the tree. Wildlife will seek these areas out.© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 3 A Plants Home
  • 4. Cut Banks, Cliffs, and Caves as wood ducks and owls. A snag Cut banks, cliffs, and caves should not be created if they don’t already needs to be at least six inches in exist. Cliffs will attract bats, bank swallows, kingfishers, and peregrine diameter and 15 ft. tall. And, the falcons. Cut banks attract fox, badgers, coyotes, and groundhogs. And, bigger, the better. Some people will bats are attracted to caves. cut down a snag, move it to their residence, and replant it in their yard near a window where they can Brush and Rock Piles watch the wildlife it attracts. Brush and rock piles provide escape cover, nesting, and den sites for species such as weasels, rabbits, groundhogs, skunks, snakes, quail, and Branches (perches) overhanging others. If you place a brush or rock pile on the edge of a small pond, with water are preferred by herons and part of it under the water, you will have a fitting habitat for amphibian and kingfishers so they can swoop in reptile species. from their lofty perches and get a fish dinner. Flycatchers do the Brush or rock piles placed away from water, should be in or next to same thing, only they want sheltered areas such as along the edges of fields or in shrubs or second insects. On dry land, perches are growth areas. If you have more than a few acres, the brush pile should be used by hawks, eagles, vultures, at least 15 ft. across. Put larger logs on the bottom and criss-cross them. and falcons to spot prey. Then gradually add medium ones, ending up with small trees or branches on top. LIVING COMPONENTS OF A WILDLIFE HABITAT Nest Boxes Nest boxes are used by nearly 50 Conifers species of wildlife. Wildlife seek them out Conifers (sometimes known as when they cannot find suitable tree cavities. evergreens) include trees and In several cases, such as the Eastern Bluebird, shrubs that do not lose their the boxes and work of thousands of volunteers, are needles in winter. Species include responsible for bringing the birds back from near firs, spruces, pines, arborvitae, endangered status. junipers, yews, and cedars. Boxes can be constructed of numerous materials but the best is This group of plants is critical to probably red cedar, which does not require any type of protective coating. wildlife. The cover and shelter they The size of the box and entrance hole are critical to each species. provide is invaluable. In addition, wildlife eat the seeds, buds, twigs, sap, and needles. Plus, the trees Snags, Fallen Trees, and Perches always stay green, and make the Unfortunately, when most people see a dead tree (snag), they want to habitat look better. Forty-eight cut it down immediately. They don’t realize that a dead tree is home to species of birds prefer the eastern numerous insects and cavity nesting/den species of wildlife. In the white pine. For example, turkeys Midwest, more than 40 species of birds and about 30 mammal species eat the seeds and needles, and use them. yellow-bellied sapsuckers eat the sap. Branches and cavities are Insect larvae are often under the bark or in the soft wood. Woodpeckers used for nesting. have the skill to create cavities that are often used by other species such Other favorite conifers are balsam fir, eastern red cedar, spruces, and eastern hemlock. Canada yew is highly preferred by deer and is generally wiped out wherever significant number of deer are present.© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 4 A Plants Home
  • 5. Summer Plants (23 species), cattails (17 species), cedar waxwings, wood thrushes, Summer fruit, berry, and cover wild celery (16 species), and nuthatches, grosbeaks, ruffed plants include trees, shrubs, duckweed (16 species). grouse, bluebirds, wood ducks, aquatic plants, and vines which pheasants, and orioles seek out produce food from June through honeysuckle, cherry, and amur the fruit of the red osier August. The biggest group in this maples. Climbing vines create dogwood, gray dogwood, component are those plants that nesting cover and fruits. The best mountain ash, winterberry, and produce fruits and berries in the fruit trees for wildlife are cottoneasters. summer. Wildlife species attracted mulberries, chokecherries, and are American robin, junco, black cherries. Grains such as corn are valued woodpeckers, brown thrashers, by nearly 100 species as is blue jays, catbirds, bluebird, wood The best tall shrubs are bush wheat, oats, and grain sorghum. thrush, cedar waxwing, oriole, apricots, chokecherries, scarlet tanager, cardinal, birdcherries, and serviceberries. butterflies, cowbird, pheasant, Plums and cherries are good Winter Plants deer, grouse, squirrel, raccoon, red medium shrubs. Winter fruits and cover plants fox, and pheasant. can make the difference whether The best low shrubs are cherries, wildlife survive the winter. In order This group of plants tends to honeysuckle, raspberries, for this food to be available spread and create thickets elderberries, blackberries, and during the winter, it must have producing excellent cover. Some of blueberries. Grapes are the best persistence and low appeal to these plants are: raspberries, vines and strawberries are the wildlife when the fruit first blackberries, serviceberries, wild best forb. appears. Examples are: plum, chokecherries, lilac-flowered snowberry, crabapple, chokeberry, honeysuckle, cherry, and amur If you want to create a shelter staghorn, sumac, bittersweet, maples. Climbing vines create belt, elderberries, scarlet elder, highbush cranberry, wahoo, and nesting cover and fruits. The best American plum, cherries, service Virginia creeper. fruit trees for wildlife are berries, and mulberries are best. mulberries, chokecherries, and Some of these fruits are bitter black cherries. For aquatic areas consider: when they first ripen. Others smartweed (used by 66 species), must freeze and thaw several The best tall shrubs are bush bulrush (52 species), pondweed times until the fruits break down apricots, chokecherries, (40 species), wigeon grass (33 and become more palatable. birdcherries, and serviceberries. species), wild millet (29 species), Plums and cherries are good spike rush (29 species), wild rice medium shrubs. The best low (23 species), cattails (17 species), Butterfly, Bee, and Moth Plants shrubs are cherries, honeysuckle, wild celery (16 species), and Butterfly, bee, and moth plants raspberries, elderberries, duckweed (16 species). will add class to your habitat. You blackberries, and blueberries. might want to create a garden of Grapes are the best vines and native prairie wildflowers or native strawberries are the best forb. Fall Plants woodland wildflowers. Fall fruits, grains, and cover If you want to create a shelter plants allow migratory birds to The most common butterflies belt, elderberries, scarlet elder, build up fat reserves prior to attracted include monarch, American plum, cherries, service migration. Non-migratory species painted lady, comma, red-spotted berries, and mulberries are best. need this Fall food to build up their purple, tiger swallowtail, “food pantries" or add to their fat fritillaries, red admiral, sulphurs, For aquatic areas consider: reserves so they can make it cabbage, and blues. If you are smartweed (used by 66 species), through the winter. wanted to attract a moth, you bulrush (52 species), pondweed might have the clearwing or (40 species), wigeon grass (33 Gray catbirds, brown thrashers, sphinx visit your garden. Bees species), wild millet (29 species), American robins, chickadees, that are nectar feeders are spike rush (29 species), wild rice juncos, purple finches, cardinals, bumblebees and honeybees.© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 5 A Plants Home
  • 6. Butterflies require two kinds of food – one type for the caterpillars and Nut and Acorn Trees another for the adult butterfly. Butterfly caterpillars will feast on Nut and acorn trees are often birches, aspens, willows, hackberry, cherries, and oak trees, legumes, referred to as “mast." In the Fall, grasses, herbs, blueberries, asters, alfalfa, vetches, clovers, bluegrass, mast is sought after by wild little bluestem, hollyhock, milkweed, lupines, black-eyed Susan, marigolds, turkey, Whitetail deer, wood violets, sedges, and dock plants. ducks, squirrels (red, gray, and fox), pheasant, ruffed grouse, For nectar, the adult butterflies prefer aster, red clover, thistle, purple Bobwhite quail, raccoon, black coneflower, blazing star, Joe Pye-weed, goldenrod, ironweed, vetches, bear, mallard ducks, and more. peppermint, carrot, dill, and parsley. Bees and butterflies prefer “single- flowered" plants as the nectar is richer and easier to access. For Among the trees that produce example, peonies, lilacs, and marigolds. mast are: black walnut, hickory, butternut, oak, and hazel. If you Bees are attracted to nearly 50 plants. The best are daffodil, sweet want to add a component that mock orange, cherry, apple, plum, peach, apricot, almond, grape hyacinth, will last a long time, then these jonquil, pussy willow, and lilac. trees are for you. Some of the They also like evening primrose, penstemons, petunia, phlox, moss rose, oaks have been known to produce salvia, sedum, goldenrod, thistle, coralberry, wolfberry, snowberry, acorns for 400 years, as marigold, clover, verbena, broccoli, and sunflowers. Herb gardens are opposed to a shrub that may especially attractive to them, including lavender, mint, spearmint, only last a few years. peppermint, lemon balm, sweet marjoram, rosemary, sage, dill, and thyme. Many of these trees contain Moths can be attracted to flower gardens. Clearwing moths are cavities that are used by nearly attracted to Sweet William, petunias, fireweed, dame’s rocket, evening one hundred species of wildlife. primrose, sweet mock orange, and phlox. Sphinx moths prefer trumpet creeper, lilies, cardinal flower, phlox, and old-fashioned weigela. In summary, by providing the four elements of a wildlife habitat and as many of the 16 Grasses and Legumes components as possible, you will Grasses and legumes can be found in large yards or rural fields. Many improve the quality of your birds use these for nesting, including pheasants, meadowlarks, mallards, habitat and should attract more and blue-winged teal. Plant eating wildlife such as Whitetail deer, rabbits, wildlife. groundhogs, and meadow voles prefer these plants. These are also good for cover of ground nesting birds and their offspring. Perhaps that’s why predators such as red fox, red-tailed This article was written by hawks, American kestrels, owls, coyotes, weasels, and skunks also Thomas D. Patrick, President and frequent the area for a meal. Founder of the WindStar Wildlife Institute, a national, non-profit conservation organization whose Native grasses like switchgrass, big and little bluestem, Indiangrass, mission is to help individuals and and sideoats gramma are making a comeback. Add some native families establish or improve the wildflowers and you have a wildflower meadow. wildlife habitat on their properties. For more information or for the Hummingbird Plants name of a Master Wildlife Habitat Hummingbird plants are nectar producing and include these favorites: Naturalist in your area, please American columbine, foxglove, penstemon, petunia, hardy fuchsia, contact: trumpet honeysuckle, bergamot, cardinal flower, dwarf blue gentian, WindStar Wildlife Institute hosta, trumpet vine, scarlet runner beans, and salvia. E-mail: wildalife@windstar.org Another wildlife species that likes nectar is the northern oriole which http://www.windstar.org prefers blossoms of red or orange flowers such as hollyhock, trumpet vine, lilies, scarlet trumpet honeysuckle, and trees such as plum, cherry, apricot, and almond.© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 6 A Plants Home