Food & Water are Essential Elements of a Wildlife Habitat


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Talk to anyone involved in the improvement of wildlife habitat and you will hear four words – food, water, cover, and space. These are the four essentials for wildlife. Without them you can have the best intentions in the world, but you won’t attract a wide variety of species to your property.

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Food & Water are Essential Elements of a Wildlife Habitat

  1. 1. Talk to anyone involved in the improvement of W ildlife doesn’t just randomly occur in a given area; it is there in response to habitat wildlife habitat and you will hear four words – which meets its needs. As food, water, cover, and space. beautiful as humans may find a house surrounded by acres of These are the four essentials for wildlife. emerald-green mowed lawn, such Without them you can have the best intentions in a scene offers neither food nor the world, but you won’t attract a wide variety of shelter for local species. species to your property. If you want wildlife to be part of your environment, you have to do some planning to include Food & Water suitable habitat in your landscape. Essential Elements Food for Wildlife of a Wildlife Habitat The first essential that we tend to think about is food. For more nature habitat information Indeed, one of the most popular Visit these helpful websites: nature activities in this country is bird feeding. What we may forget, however, is that there A Plants Home are many species of birds, a A Birds Home great number of which are not A Homesteaders Home seed-eaters and will never visit our feeders, but all of which need food throughout the year. The same is true of other wildlife, and this can give us the basis of our landscape planning. It also means that we need to reconsider our attitudes towards yard maintenance. Insecticides can kill food sources and poison many of the species that we want to attract, so its use needs to be curtailed. Choosing native plants and limiting lawn areas will help lessen dependence on pesticides and herbicides. While we view weeds and wild vines as nuisance plants, wildlife sees them as valuable sources of food and shelter, so we should look for areas where they can be left to grow.© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 1 A Plants Home
  2. 2. In addition to food, you might want to offer supplements such as grit or gravel to aid birds with digestion, crushed eggshells to add calcium during egg production, and salt which is necessary for many species. A little research into the wildlife in your area and its preferred food should give you a number of ideas on what to provide and how to present it. Water for Wildlife Water, as we all know, is vital for all living things. Many of us supply bird baths in the summer, but we tend to forget about other times, especially Instead of constantly these have evolved with the during the winter. Just as we grooming our yards, leaving wildlife to best meet its needs. make sure that our household perennial seed heads in place pets have fresh water all year for winter food, allowing dead Some introduced plants and around, so do wildlife species trees and logs to remain for developed cultivars also have a need a dependable source of both food and shelter, and lot to offer wildlife, but try not water, especially when cold refraining from raking up to add any exotic flora to your temperatures eliminate their dropped nuts and fruits are all landscape that is known to be normal drinking locations. changes that will attract a invasive to the point of variety of wildlife to our overpowering local native property – and save us money, species. time, and effort as well. If the size of your property or other factors make it hard to Variety is Best increase the variety of plants, When choosing plants for consider adding wildlife feeders. wildlife food, think in terms of Most of us are familiar with the variety, both of the type of food many bird feeders now on the offered and the season in which market, some even designed for it will be available. Consider specific types of seed, but there berries, other kinds of fruit, are feeders for other creatures tender buds and bark, nuts, pine as well. cones, crops such as corn or sunflowers, seed-producing Suet feeders appeal to insect- grasses, flowers high in nectar, eating birds, corn feeders can and host plants for caterpillars. help deer and pheasants survive heavy winters. There are nectar If you have a pond, a number feeders designed to attract of wetland plants also have both hummingbirds and excellent food value. Whenever butterflies, and squirrels enjoy possible, incorporate native dried ears of corn on spike plants into your property since feeders.© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 2 A Plants Home
  3. 3. It takes a little more effort berries and other fruit are high Diagram of a small pond to supply water when in moisture content, so try to temperatures dip below create safe feeding areas freezing, but the rewards are where these are available. great as you watch wildlife – including species that you won’t see at feeders – take Sand Pile for Butterflies advantage of a chance to Butterflies and other insects drink and bathe. will be attracted to a shallow container of wet sand placed Water can be provided in a on the ground. However it is variety of ways, but as you presented, water needs to be plan your habitat keep in mind fresh, clean, plentiful, and that moving water – whether dependable. flowing or dripping – is the most attractive to wildlife. There are many commercial models of bird baths available, Also, think about location. but a trash can lid partially Bird baths need to be located sunk in the ground can also at least 15 feet from shrubs work, as can hollowed-out that might hide cats, yet stone or concrete forms. close enough to taller trees to allow escape from hawks. When the water is at ground- Keep Water From Freezing level, having a dripping hose or For the winter, commercial Other animals may enjoy a a bucket with a small hole in it bird bath heaters are available more sheltered spot to drink, suspended above the bath will which draw very little electricity but most want to have a clear attract more visitors. and will ensure a supply of open view of any approaching water all season. predators. The sides of a bird bath need to be rough and slope gently to A landscaped bird bath or Dew on grass and leaves can a water depth of not more than fountain can become the focal supply some water for rabbits three inches. This will prevent point of your property. If you and other rodents, while slipping or drowning. are feeling more ambitious, a small waterfall will add the soothing sound of moving water. If your property has a pond or stream on it, you will probably already be attracting wildlife. If water doesn’t occur naturally, it is easier than ever to create a pond using the many kits and instruction books now available. A small pond only needs to be one or two feet deep and eight to ten feet across, lined with either plastic or concrete. Soil in the pond will allow you to add water plants, and moisture-© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 3 A Plants Home
  4. 4. loving species can be planted around the edges. Suggested Plants With Ledges create different water Food Value For Wildlife depths, while logs and partially submerged rocks offer safe perches for small mammals. Summer wild plum raspberry The pond should be located blackberry apple where it can receive four to five serviceberry mulberry hours of sunlight a day, and a plum blueberry recirculating pump will keep the American elderberry water fresh and moving. There are also devices to Fall create waterfalls or sprays of dogwood wild cherry mist. Placing the pond within cotoneaster corn reach of your garden hose will oats wheat enable you to fill it during winterberry grape periods of limited rainfall. viburnum spicebush mountain ash What Species Do You Want. Think about the wildlife you Winter want to attract. Including fish black/red chokeberry holly Virginia creeper crabapple will cut down on the number of amphibians, since they eat the highbush cranberry bittersweet eggs of creatures like frogs and mountain ash salamanders, but will increase staghorn sumac the attractiveness for birds such as kingfishers and herons. Nuts & Acorns black walnut red oak If you have a large property, shagbark hickory pecan talk to your local Extension This article was written by Service or state Department of Maryland Master Wildlife Habitat white oak butternut American hazel beech Natural Resources for Naturalist Cathy Gilleland. information about constructing a bigger pond or a marshy area. For more information or for the name of a Master Wildlife Habitat Wetland These will attract many wildlife Naturalist in your area, please smartweed cattail species including larger birds, contact: bulrush wild millet ducks, raccoons, and muskrats. WindStar Wildlife Institute pondweed spike rush wild rice Restoring wetlands is E-mail: invaluable for the environment, and will offer you wonderful Nectar opportunities for watching cardinal flower bee balm wildlife. WindStar Wildlife Institute is a morning glory petunia national, non-profit, conservation trumpet honeysuckle Moisture-loving plants include organization whose mission is to cattails, marsh marigold, help individuals and families duckweed, water lily, arrowhead, establish or improve the wildlife and rushes. habitat on their properties.© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 4 A Plants Home