Attracting Birds and Other Wildlife
We asked you to tell us how you attract wildlife. Here's what you told us:
How to attract wildlife to the garden? No matter where you garden it's always possible to attract at least the birds. Native plants are available through plant catalogs and online. Natives with overwintering berries and seed heads left on ornamental grasses and plants such as coreopsis, tall sunflowers, purple coneflower, black-eyed susan work well. Oatmeal, bread crumbs, raisins, sunflower seeds and such are fun for a treat. Peanut butter on apple cores, dry fruit of almost any variety and popped (no butter or salt, please!)or dried corn add another touch. Squirrels will amuse you for hours as they haul up then drop entire corncobs from trees. Plant a garden for rabbits of greens and expect armadillos if you inhabit their territory. The more worms your garden holds, the more to the liking of these small native "tanks". Gardening for wildlife can be the most satisfying "crop" of the year.
I have been feeding birds for many years and have been trying to repel squirrels from my feeders and have found the perfect answer. I have put all my feeders on poles and have installed "stove-pipe like" baffles on them. They are made especially for metal (pipe) pole feeders and they work like a charm. the important requisites are that they not be placed anywhere near a spot where the squirrels may jump from. That means not underneath a tree, near a fence or too near a birdbath (which was a "trouble" spot for me).
I just made certain that the birdbath was moved a little farther away so that the little critters could not use any one of those mentioned things as a leaping platform. I can always tell if a squirrel is new to my yard because it climbs the pole and ends up inside the dead end but it doesn't take them long to learn that it is hopeless.
-Patricia, Brewster, Mass.
Think in layers! Birds are attracted to landscapes with a variety of layers; tall trees, understory trees & shrubs, groundcovers and of course leaf litter. Creating different levels in your garden for birds to take cover will also increase the number of species you'll see. Different species frequent different layers -- towhees and thrushes who forage on the ground or the magnificent scarlet tanager who frequents the canopies of trees.
Take a walk at a nature center or other "wild" place for ideas. Mother Nature will give you the best clues to how to landscape for wildlife. Pay particular attention to how different species grow together and the layers they create!
-Bridget, Moretown, Vt.
I have a small pond in my backyard that has goldfish; it also attracts toads, dragonflies, and birds. Many of my plants are pollinators, so I have a lot of bees, wasps, and butterflies too. A passionflower vine provides larval food for butterfiles, and a butterfly bush provides nectar. In my frontyard, I have a birdbath and birdfeeder, which invites many birds into the yard, including sparrows, doves, cardinals, and mocking birds.
-Karen, Austin, Texas
I plant native shrubs with flowers and fruits, grasses and perennials that attract butterflies, hummingbirds, other birds and beneficial insects. I make sure there is a source of water and nearby trees and shrubs that can provide shelter.
-Susan, Pittsburgh, Pa.
First off, I live in a very dry climate for the majority of the year. I have plenty of waterers, which I clean and fill each morning. Placed on the ground, in birdbaths, etc. I have surrounding shrubs, trees, some brush left for the quail. Several feeders, some hanging, some on the ground, all filled each morning. Being regular with the feed and water seems to help. I play host to a myriad of birds, coons, bobcats, coyotes, deer, peacocks, wild turkeys, foxes and skunks. Also, an occasional neighbor cat, which is promptly asked to leave. This is all over 10 acres.
-Jane, Mariposa, Calif.
After moving here from the Palouse of Washington State, with wheat as far as the eye could see and as many different birds, we now are living on the top of a mountain in Idaho. When we arrived last fall, I had to learn all over again and rethink my birding, since the birds are totally different in kind and habits. We keep long tube feeders filled with black oil sunflower seeds, smaller feeders with thistle. I try to keep at least five suet feeders going at all times of the year. It is a full-time passion, but, so much fun and a delight to watch. I no longer have the types of birds that I had a year ago, but, now have stellar jays, camprobbers (gray jays), juncos, several types of woodpeckers, chickadees, bald and golden eagles (those we do NOT feed and keep the little white dog in the house when present). In addition, there are wild turkeys, grouse, quail, etc. What a true delight to rethink the rules of feeding. One thing also to remember is to ALWAYS make sure that there is a source of clean drinking water for them. That is a real challange when the snow gets over 4'deep. Thank you for your wonderful and informative newsletter. I am finding that even though I miss my goldfinches, meadowlarks, etc., the challange of learning another terrain is quite fun.
-Vicki, Grangeville, Idaho
How do I attract wild life to my garden? I plant it.
-Wanda, Worcester, Mass.
We have several garden areas that are planned to attract varied wildlife. We have a stand of forsythia bushes that the finches and sparrows take shelter in, along with a variety of trees throughout the yard: birch, maple, spruce, etc., and bushes that have berries and offer shelter.
We plant flowers that retain their seed heads, which the birds enjoy, and leave them uncut till spring, along with offering four birdfeeders in separate areas to attract different species of birds and two birdbaths. In winter we offer several suet feeders. The past three years we have planted flowers that attract butterflies and this was the best sighting year to date.
We have a lot of squirrels, which I allow to share the feeders, along with offering corn and a treat of nuts. We have two resident toads that enjoy the dripping hose connection and bury themselves in the mud. We also see raccoons, foxes and skunks, and pigeons -- all this in suburban Chicago.
-Leette, Schaumburg, Ill.
Many butchers, not supermarkets, will give you free or highly discounted suet. The woodpeckers love it!
-Judith, New Windsor, N.Y.
Bringing wildlife to the garden requires meeting their needs: food, water, shelter and places to raise young. In terms of food, feeders are fine, but I prefer to attract wildlife using an assortment of plants native to my area.
Gardener's Supply needs to carefully research which plants it recommends for wildlife. I see suggestions for non-native invasive plants such as shrub honeysuckle and buckthorn which are displacing our native plants and endangering entire ecoysystems, including the wildlife it is supposed to be promoting.
-Theresa, Suwanee, Ga.
Offer a variety of food types in a variety of feeders. I offer millet in ground feeders (for sparrows, juncos and towhees, etc.) and high platform feeders (for blackbirds and other large birds), suet in a caged feeder (for woodpeckers), sunflower in caged tube feeders (for songbirds), peanuts in a caged feeder (for nuthatches, chickadees and woodpeckers). Offering large birds a place to feed away from the smaller birds is very important if you want to welcome them to your yard.
Offer water in a variety of birdbath styles. I have three birdbaths that balance between each of my feeding stations. The water is about 10 feet away from each feeder. Two are pedestal baths and one is a ground bath (with several depths of water). This offers each bird species a place to drink and bathe. The ground bath is actually the most popular with my feathered friends.
All of our feeding and watering stations are situated right next to trees and dense bushes for a quick getaway and protection from predators (like hawks and cats!) and the elements.
The birds love the habitat that I have created. In fact, the neighbors complain that I have stolen all the birds!
-Maggie, Lynnwood, Wash.
I plant "dead trees". I have planted two "dead" branches in areas with decent ground cover. I put up several feeders, ranging from suet to regular seed feeders and the birds are absolutely drawn to these areas. I have tons of evergreens and shrubs about 30 to 50 feet away, but the birds seem to trust this area now.
-Diane, Cedar Falls, Iowa
We have an abundance of bird feeders, such as thistle for the finches and feeders for the cardinals, mourning doves and yes, even the grackles. The birdbaths have been a place for drinking as well as playing. There are feeders as well as flowers for the hummingbirds and the flowers have also attracted several different types of butterflies. There have also been deer and rabbits that have frequented our yard and have been kind enough to leave the flowerbeds untouched, which has been surprising! We have had the pleasure of finding two turtles. The enjoyment of coming home after working all day and just watching the different wildlife is indescribable!
-Darleen, Front Royal, Va.
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