Written by Chris Campbell
As autumn inches closer and closer, many of the resources that birds and other urban wildlife need to survive become harder to find. How can we attract wildlife into our landscapes and invite their company through the winter months? Just a few simple steps can make our homes more attractive to these creatures. First, think about the necessities that we require to live and thrive.
Food, water, and shelter are elements necessary for our existence. The survival requirements for animals in the landscape are no different. And, through thoughtful landscaping we can provide these elements. One of the keys is to make these elements available throughout the seasons. Food can be made available to wildlife naturally with plants that supply berries, nuts, and seeds. Humans can also offer some foods artificially such as birdseed. Think seasonal availability. Fruits and berries ripen at different times. Some are ripe and can be eaten during the growing season. Others are ‘persistent’ and hold on into the winter for food in the cold months when food is hard to find. And, we rarely think of it, but many ornamental grasses and perennial flowers also provide seed for birds during the winter.
Water sources are critical. Ponds, birdbaths, and fountains are all good sources of water. Many times animals are attracted to the sound of moving water. Waterfalls large and small, ornamental streams, and dripping water will all produce sound. Water is accessible during the warm months but what happens at temperatures below freezing? Install a pond or birdbath water heater, so animals can find open water to drink.
Just like us, animals need shelter from the sun, wind, rain, and cold. Trees, shrubs, and some larger grasses and perennial flowers can offer a diverse array of shelter for different kinds of wildlife. Shade trees offer places to perch, watch for food and predators, and nest. Evergreen trees and shrubs can provide protection from rain and the cold. Place shelter near water and food sources. The homeowner can also provide shelter for cavity nesters with birdhouses designed to attract desirable species.
Our growing urban environments and diminishing natural habitats result in compromised ecosystem diversity. As you can imagine, the more ways that we can create environmental diversity in our landscapes, the more species of wildlife we can attract and sustain. Using many types of trees, shrubs, perennial flowers, and grasses will improve diversity in the residential setting. Following these basic landscaping techniques will increase your potential to attract wildlife to your home for years of enjoyment.