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Attracting Wildlife to Your Back
A Guide to Increasing Wildlife Diversity
and Aesthetic Value Around Your Home
The Needs of Wildlife: COVER AND
It is a challenge in today's society to create
habitat in the form of cover in your back yard. There are external
pressures that one deals with when making the decision to attract
wildlife. I personally know the sociological mindset of many people
who see cover as something "messy." They, with manicured lawns,
proclaim themselves as upholding the standard set for urban beauty.
Often, it is simply lack of education. By sharing
your plan and ideas before proceeding with your project, your
efforts may at least be accepted if not understood. If efforts to
communicate and educate others fail, an alternative is to use a tall
fence or screening hedge to prevent neighbors from having a bird's
eye view of your project. Results speak for themselves and many
times neighbors follow your lead after observing the beauty,
seclusion, and time saved for other activities with implementation
of a wildlife landscaping plan.
To further increase
the effectiveness of edge:
|The goal of cover is to
protect wildlife from the elements of weather and predators by
providing trees, shrubs, grasses and structures which offer
year-round protection. Wildlife not only require protection
from cold winds during winter, but also need areas to nest and
escape predators. Providing cover close to a food source will
decrease the chance of predation as wildlife move to feed.
To choose your cover
arrangement, determine which wildlife species can benefit or
which species you would like to view on your property. A
typical back yard is limited in size and will not be big
enough to provide adequate nesting space for grassland birds
such as the sharptail grouse, waterfowl species like the
Canada goose, or enough isolation for raising a large mammal
like the white-tailed deer.
Many larger species, however,
can be lured to your yard given larger habitats are found in
the area. The key to providing cover for wildlife is to avoid
uniformity. In other words, you want to create what biologists
call "edge". Edge is defined as providing the largest variety
of habitat components within a given area. For example, a yard
filled with large trees, medium trees, shrubs, vines, grasses
and wildflowers will attract a much more diverse number of
wildlife species than will a yard covered entirely with a
single component. General plans and concepts, to include best
plants for wildlife and their arrangement, will be covered in
more detail within the upcoming chapter entitled "Landscape
- make boundaries of plantings in irregular shapes
instead of rows.
- plant shrubs in clusters or clumps.
- provide a tiered effect with vegetation stands.
- add other components such as brush piles, rocks
and logs throughout the area.
Wildlife will benefit and move about
more freely if travel lanes are provided between plots of cover.
Typical urban backyards can be landscaped with
trees and shrubs to provide areas for songbirds to nest including
species like chipping sparrows, robins, orioles, vireos, finches,
bluejays and small mammals like cottontail rabbits, tree squirrels,
ground squirrels and weasels. All of these species will respond
positively to a yard planted with a variety of cover types.
Cover is most often thought of as vegetation but
can also include structures like brush and rock piles or man-made
nesting structures like those built for wood ducks or bluebirds.
Brush piles can provide more edge and are a simple
way to provide cover for wildlife such as cottontail rabbits,
weasels, and reptiles and amphibians in a situation where cover is
limited. Brush piles are constructed with trees branches and twigs
which have been pruned or cut from an area where they are
Brush piles should be the product of another
practice you are already doing. In other words, simply cutting
existing vegetation to make a brush pile could be taking better
natural cover from wildlife than what you are creating in the brush
pile itself Also, predators such as skunks and weasels may utilize
brush piles and it is advisable not to put brush piles in close
proximity to wetlands where young waterfowl and shorebirds may
After deciding whether a brush pile is beneficial
for your location, choose a location adjacent to existing shrubs,
trees or along the edge of a field.
Begin with a foundation of large tree trunks or
rocks to prevent brush from decomposing too quickly. By adding
hollow logs, bricks or old sections of culvert near ground level,
cover and nesting space will be greatly increased. Continue piling
cuttings until you have a dome about five feet high and fifteen feet
in diameter. Finish by topping with a couple of heavier trees to
prevent brush from moving or blowing around.
Dead and dying trees are known to biologists as
snags. At first glance, most people see a snag as an eyesore or a
good piece of wood to burn or add to the landfill. To wildlife,
snags are a source of food in the form of the many insect species
attracted underneath bark, and a home in the form of a nesting
There are many species of wildlife that use
dead and dying trees (snags) to build their nests. These include
bluebirds, wood ducks, tree squirrels, bats, yellow-shafted
flickers, downy woodpeckers and house wrens.
One of the easiest ways to provide cover for wildlife
species in early years of landscaping is to provide nesting
structures because natural cover will be limited. Structure, which
will generally show immediate results, are nest boxes for cavity
nesting species. Cavity nesting species require a cavity in which to
build their nest and lay eggs. These man-made structures mimic the
natural cavities found in dead and dying trees and can be provided
for wildlife in almost habitats.
Wildlife differ in need depending on their size and habits and nest
boxes need to be designed with those needs in mind.
Previous Section -- The Needs of
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Section -- Landscape Plannning: 1. Setting
Your Personal Goals and Priorities
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