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How to attract wildlife to your property

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Wildlife conservationists have known for years that wildlife populations are dependent on four major factors – food, cover, water, and space. …

Wildlife conservationists have known for years that wildlife populations are dependent on four major factors – food, cover, water, and space.
If you have an acreage, a farm, a yard, or an apartment balcony, you can usually provide at least two of these elements on your property – food and water. It then becomes important that wildlife has access to cover and space in nearby areas in order to survive.


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  • 1. How To Attract Wildlife W ildlife conservationists have known for years that wildlife populations are dependent on four major To Your Property factors – food, cover, water, and space. For more nature habitat information If you have an acreage, a farm, a yard, or an apartment Visit these helpful websites: balcony, you can usually provide at least two of these elements A Plants Home on your property – food and A Birds Home water. It then becomes A Homesteaders Home important that wildlife has access to cover and space in nearby areas in order to survive. One of the secrets in creating a successful habitat is to provide a variation within each of the four areas. Different wildlife species need different combinations of elements. Having a variety in your habitat means the difference between seeing 200 or just 10 different species. Let’s examine each of the habitat elements. Food Food is one of the primary necessities of wildlife. Every species has its own food needs. Often, this changes as the species ages. Food includes the nutritional part of the diet, as well as There seems to be among many of us a supplements such as salt. Also, psychic need to connect with nature. many birds require grit or gravel for grinding up food in their Nature is humanity’s one universal gizzards. common bond. It helps ensure our sanity. Some wildlife species eat a variety of foods and others eat – Scott Shalaway only a few different kinds. These include fruit and berries, grain© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 1 A Plants Home
  • 2. and seeds, nectar, nuts Also, we must not forget (mast), browse plants such as aquatic plants such as wild rice, twigs and buds plus forage and widgeongrass, pond weeds, and aquatic plants. wild celery. They are a favorite of ducks, geese, muskrats, Fruits and berries are rich in beaver, moose, and sometimes vitamins and carbohydrates deer. and are usually available in the summer and fall. These include The roots, bulbs and tubers of elderberries, blackberries, plants which are underground strawberries, raspberries, be found throughout the year. are consumed by moles, cherries, grapes, mulberries, Seeds of conifers (evergreens) gophers, wild turkeys, ducks, and apples. are also a good source of food. geese, and muskrats. Some varieties, such as Weeds probably contribute the And nectar from plants is mountain ash and holly, have most to food sources as they sought by hummingbirds, moths, berries that stay on the bush are so abundant and many times and bees. Plants that or tree and are available to are favored by wildlife (not successfully attract nectar wildlife in the winter. property owners) over more feeders include trumpet attractive yard plants. A good honeysuckle vine, cardinal bush, One of the most popular example is pigweed. It can paintbrush, bee balm, petunias, berries for birds is elderberries. contain nearly 100,000 seeds and morning glory. Fifty-one different bird species per plant! eat them. Other favorites are Wildlife will often use an sunflowers, preferred by 46 Other favorite weeds are abundant food source almost species, and flowering dogwood, ragweed, smartweed, dock, and exclusively when it becomes favored by 45 bird species. crabgrass. available. Good examples are nuts and fruits. Squirrels and Fruits are also eaten by Grains raised by farmers, such Blue Jays store acorns, hickory many different kinds of as oats, wheat, barley, rye, corn, nuts, and walnuts for later use. mammals, including squirrel, grain sorghum, and soybeans Deer and bears develop a thick fox, deer, bear, skunk, and provide abundant food. In recent layer of fat by feeding on opossum. years, whitetail deer, which have acorns. thrived despite urbanization, Nuts are really fruits with a cause millions of dollars of crop Insects are another vital food dry, hard exterior shell and losses for farmers, especially to source, especially for songbirds, contain fats and proteins. corn, soybean, and hay fields. quail, and pheasants. If you use Acorns from oak trees are insecticides to kill pests on most widely available along with For example, in Maryland the your property, be careful and pecans, beechnuts, and deer population has increased use with walnuts. Squirrels and from 20,000 in 1981 to over restraint. chipmunks prefer hickory nuts, 300,000 currently. hazelnuts, black walnuts, and Providing a butternuts. Vegetative parts of plants are variety of sought by rodents, browsing and foods is Grains and seeds constitute grazing mammals, and some probably the the major food of many species gamebirds. Deer, antelope, and most of wildlife. They mature in the rabbits are especially fond of important summer and fall but some can alfalfa and clover hays. part of your© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 2 A Plants Home
  • 3. wildlife habitat. Selection can be And cover provides protection made for a diversity of food from rain, snow, sleet, wind, types for plants that mature heat, and cold. Many plants at different times or for those provide both cover and food. that retain their fruits well into winter. There are many different kinds of cover. It can be trees, shrubs, If you can not plant trees or grasses, flowers, rock piles, shrubs on your property, brush piles, field crops such as establish a year-round feeding corn, grain sorghum and hollows at the base of tree and watering station and offer soybeans, cut banks, hollow limbs, or puddles left after a your wildlife sunflower seeds, trees, bird houses, burrows, rain. thistle seeds, and perhaps bridges, abandoned buildings, some grains such as cracked fence rows, and hedgerows. Plants also provide water. corn or grain sorghum. Rabbits and rodents obtain it It is important for cover to be by eating leaves. Mammals Weather impacts mightily on close to food and water. The sometimes get it from dew on food sources for wildlife. Early more exposed wildlife is, the grass. And a large source heavy spring rains and early higher the mortality rate from comes from fruits and all types frosts can curtail food predators. of berries which have a high production. An early snow can water content. cover all the fruit and seeds Hedgerows are one of the that have fallen to the ground. most valuable types of cover, as One of your biggest challenges Sleet and ice storms make it they also provide food in a is to preserve and manage the impossible for wildlife to find protected environment. water in your habitat where it food. Common hedgerow plants that exists and, if absent, add new establish themselves naturally sources such as ponds, Plant species also vary in are dogwood, honeysuckle, red fountains, or baths. Many hours production from one year to bud, wild cherry, and, of enjoyment can result from another. Sometimes acorns or unfortunately for the property watching songbirds take a bath walnuts are almost non- owner, poison ivy. in your pond or bird bath. existent and in other years there is an abundant crop. Water Space Water is also essential for all Each wildlife species has Cover wildlife species. They must have specific needs as far as Cover is right behind food in it to survive. Usually a pond or territory or amount of space to importance. It is needed for stream serves the purpose, roam in and to breed. A ruffed wildlife to survive and to have along with rain collected in the grouse or quail pair need about protection from weather and 10 acres, while others, such as predators. Cover is critically wild turkey, may need 100 acres important for nesting and of woodland. raising of young. It is also necessary when wildlife sleeps Wood ducks and purple or rests. martins do not defend territory around their nests. But, Cover provides protection bluebirds need at least 300 through concealment and feet between houses and about impenetrability to predators. five acres for each pair.© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 3 A Plants Home
  • 4. The first three habitat An example of species variety Or, if you have an acreage or requirements – food, cover, and is when you want to attract all farm, maybe you want to water can be manipulated by types of songbirds because you increase the number of man but space may be more like to watch them eat at bird pheasant or quail on your difficult Increasing a species feeders located near your property because you like to variety can be achieved by house. This is possible by hunt. providing a mixture of habitats providing different kinds of seed with plants, trees, and shrubs in such as thistle, sunflower, or In order to attract the birds, various stages of development. peanut. you might plant a few rows of corn, grain sorghum, or millet on your property, next to fence BEST SHRUBS FOR WILDLIFE rows or hedgerows, and not harvest the grain in the fall so Shrubs Benefits for Wildlife Wildlife Attracted it can be eaten over the cold Arrowwood Berries, Foliage Grouse, Cedar Waxwing, winter months by wildlife. Make Brown Thrasher, sure you also have adequate Squirrel, Deer water and cover available. Azalea, Flame Leaves, Nectar Hummingbird, Deer, Butterflies, You should know the needs of other insects each species you want to Blackhaw Berries, Folliage Grouse, attract. The result can be a Cedar Waxwing, Brown Thrasher, stable and varied wildlife Squirrel, Deer population. To attract a specific Elderberry Berries, Nectar Woodpeckers, species, you’ll need to Blue Jay, Thrushes, manipulate vegetation so that Grosbeaks, Rabbit, the cover, food, and water are Squirrel less limiting for that species. If Mountain Laurel Nectar Butterflies, the species you want to other insects attract requires a variety of Spicebush Berries Thrushes, Catbird, habitat needs, you’ll be able to Kingbird plan for that also. Sumac, Shining Fruit, Twigs, Quail, Bluebird, Foliage Catbird, Robin, Mockingbird, Rabbit, This article was written by Deer Thomas D. Patrick, President and Founder of the WindStar Wildlife Sumac, Smooth Fruit, Twigs, Quail, Bluebird, Institute, a national, non-profit Foliage Catbird, Robin, conservation organization whose Mokingbird, Rabbit, Deer mission is to help individuals and families establish or improve the Sumac, Staghorn Fruit, Twigs, Quail, Bluebird, wildlife habitat on their properties. Foliage Catbird, Robin, Mockingbird, Rabbit, Deer For more information or for the name of a Master Wildlife Habitat Wax Myrtle Berries Quail, Bluebird, Catbird, Naturalist in your area, please Tree Swallow, contact: Yellow-rumped Warbler WindStar Wildlife Institute Witchhazel Seeds, Twigs Grouse, Deer E-mail: wildalife@windstar.org http://www.windstar.org Note: Plants mentioned in this publication are somewhat generic. Please contact your state native plant society or department of natural resources for appropriate native plants for your area.© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 4 A Plants Home