Landscaping for Wildlife presentation 2013

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Landscaping for Wildlife
and Biodiversity
How you can cultivate a wildlife friendly
habitat and promote biodiversity
By providing a few important elements,
and avoiding use of chemicals, you can
create a wildlife-friendly, biodiverse and
ecologically healthy back yard
• Food, especially native plant and
tree species
• Fresh water
• Nest sites and cover
• Nest materials
• Healthy ecosystem
Planting native species does not require giving up
a beautiful landscape.
It is also a step toward re-establishing habitat that
lawns and non-native plantings have replaced.
FOOD
Non-native plants crowd out native species and don’t
host the same insect populations. Particularly in the
case of birds, decrease in insect host plants have an
immense effect on food availability.
One chickadee brood of four to six young can require over 9,000
caterpillars. Oak trees can support more than 500 species of
caterpillars. Non-native plants may not host any.
Beautiful, but…
Non-native landscape plants and prolific fruiters like the
Burning Bush (Winged Euonymus) and Multiflora Rose can
escape gardens and spread quickly. Birds usually prefer
native fruits to the less nutritious fruits of non-native plants.
Many native fruit and seed
producing plants are attractive
for landscaping.
Winterberry is a native wetland shrub
and a valuable food source for winter
birds, such as the Cedar Waxwing.
High-bush Cranberry blooms provide
food for butterflies, bees and other
pollinators, as well as fruit for birds.
Shadblow (Amelanchier), also known as
Serviceberry or Juneberry, blooms in April
and fruits in June, providing early
blossoms for honey bees and some of the
earliest fruits of the season. This native
understory tree is a hardy and attractive
landscape species.
Don’t think of natives like goldenrod as weeds…
Goldenrod can add fall color to your landscape and provide
an important nectar source for bees and butterflies in late
summer. Don’t blame goldenrod for your allergies:
goldenrod pollen is not airborne.
Another common plant which most gardeners might be tempted
to weed out is Jewelweed or Impatiens. The nectar-rich orange or
yellow flowers are favorites of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. As a
bonus, Jewelweed is an antidote to Stinging Nettle irritations and
itchy mosquito bites. Jewelweed seed pods burst open when
brushed, giving its alternate name, Touch-Me-Not.
Hardy native Purple Coneflower
(Echinacea) attracts bees and
butterflies during blooming. Last
year the rare Giant Swallowtail
spent a number of days at the
Sheep Hill coneflowers.
In addition to planting for insect pollinators, attract
them by building these cool insect habitats to replace
the habitats they are losing.
Providing native plants is
an effective way of feeding
birds their natural diet
during the summer and
helping to fuel their
migration, just as feeding
bird seed augments their
winter diet.
Leave coneflower and
other seed-rich flower
heads standing in the fall
for migrating sparrows,
finches and other seedeaters.
WATER
Birds use birdbaths for
drinking and to keep
their feathers healthy.
Birdbaths and other
small water features
are important water
sources for all backyard
wildlife, including
insects and small
mammals.
Add a dripper or other
moving water feature
to increase the
attraction.
Keep all water sources clean and in
summer, replace the water daily.
Birds need fresh water during the winter, too.
There are many options for heated bird baths on the market.
NEST SITES AND COVER
Birds need safe places for nest building, such as thick
undergrowth or high tree canopies. This Yellow Warbler
nest lined with cattail down was deep inside a Multiflora
rose bush. Most nests are not used again once the
young have fledged.
Nest boxes attract cavity nesting species such as Eastern
Bluebird, Tree Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse,
and wrens. Bluebirds and swallows need open grassy areas for
foraging, but the other species will do well in backyards or wooded
areas. Small songbirds will huddle together in nest boxes in bitter cold
weather, and Flying Squirrels and mice also use them for winter shelter.
Clean nest boxes out each spring to ensure a healthy brood.
Habitat isn’t always outside! Open buildings are perfect for
birds that build mud nests, such as the Barn Swallow and
Eastern Phoebe, which need to find a sheltered spot out of
the weather for their nests. They will reuse nests or rebuild in
the same location for many years. Install small wood
platforms under eaves to provide additional habitat for birds
often associated with buildings.
Cover
Evergreens and thickets Birds and small mammals need
protection from predators and severe weather. Birds will
roost close to the trunk of dense conifers in cold, windy, and
harsh weather. Hedges and dense shrubbery give good cover
and protected nest sites.
Bird’s Nest Spruce
Juniper
Brush Piles
If you have an open area with
little natural cover, a brush pile is
a simple way to provide cover
and protection. Fallen branches,
twigs, and leaves can be piled
loosely together to make a safe
haven for birds and small
creatures. Recycled Christmas
trees make good brush piles
through the spring. Brush piles
can be any size; place them
where exposure to predators is
the greatest.
Snags
Snags are used for singing and
hunting perches and nest sites,
and they provide a source of
food for insects and birds that
eat them. Dead or decaying
trees are an important part of
the ecosystem and are used by
25% of terrestrial species of
wildlife, including birds and
mammals. A fallen tree provides
a home for insects and animals
and helps enrich the soils as it
decays. If not a threat to
property or people, leave dying
trees standing.
Lawn care accounts for 70
million pounds of
pesticide application in
the U.S. every year, 10
times more than farming.
A perfect lawn is a
monoculture, and since
nature strives for
diversity the battle to
keep out non-grass plants
is a losing one.
Remember – this lawn
was once a habitat. Less
lawn, or a less perfect
lawn, means more space
for native plants, trees
and shrubs.
Replacing even a small area
of lawn with native
plantings will raise the
biodiversity of your yard.
WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR
Don’t create an ecological trap: if
your yard provides the only habitat
in an area, wildlife will be at risk
coming and going, and will spend
more energy to reach food sources
that are farther away.
Don’t attract wildlife to areas with
known hazards, such as domestic
cats, responsible for killing billions
of songbirds every year. (1.7 to 3.4
billion according to one study)
Reduce use of chemicals
There are now many
natural products on the
market for ridding your
household and yard of
pests and weeds.
Chemicals can harm
important pollinators,
birds, and people.
Individuals can
make a difference
In Bringing Nature Home,
author Doug Tallamy writes
that gardeners could play a
pivotal role in creating safe
havens for wildlife.
“It is now within the power of
individual gardeners to do
something we all dream of
doing: to make a difference.
In this case, the ‘difference’
will be to the future of
biodiversity, to the native
plants of North America and
the ecosystems that sustain
them. “
Nature is perfect, but we don’t always appreciate its
perfection. We should all strive for less perfection in our
outside spaces.
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