Gardening with and for Wildlife part 1-Food
“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:7-10 ESV
I hope you enjoy the beauty of nature around us as much as I do! I am amazed at the variety and beauty our dear Father, God, has placed around us in the plants and animals!
Something that we have wanted to do in several of the places we’ve lived, but never got around to it for some reason (even though every place we’ve lived would have qualified) is to have our yard certified by National Wildlife Federation as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat!
Whether you live in the country, in a subdivision or an apartment you can garden for wildlife!
All wildlife requires four basic things to be present (pretty much the same things people need!): Food, Water, Cover/Shelter and an area to reproduce safely.
One thing to remember is that the critters don’t always read the manuals! So everything is a generalization…just keep that in mind
*Remember…don’t use herbicides and pesticides-you want to attract critters and not kill them.
The most common type of wildlife that most people want to attract is birds, and most of what is good for birds is good for other critters too!
Food: If you have a yard you can easily put out a bird feeder or two…or ten!…okay, that’s me.
Even in most apartments, you could hang a feeder outside one of your windows.
We’ve been feeding birds for decades in several different areas of the country, and what we have had the best success with is feeding the seed loving birds strictly black oiler sunflower seeds. Feel free to try different seeds-what works for one person and their birds might be different for another. For example, lots of folks put out thistle feeders and have lots of success with goldfinches coming to them. We have tried them several times and always end up giving or throwing them away, along with the seed. They have just never worked well for us.
One of the things we’ve noticed at the location we’d are at now, is that when we put out our ‘tried and true’ types of feeders we couldn’t seem to attract the cardinals. I’m not sure why we even did this, but we went to a local store and bought one of the cheapest plastic feeders they had (@$10). We put it out on a pole with the same black oilers in it, and voila! The cardinals came in! Not sure why, but thought maybe since those feeders are so cheap and common around here, maybe that’s what they were used to…whatever, it worked…Yay!
$10 feeder the cardinals like
Different birds do like different types of feeders. Some like a screened tube type, some like a platform and some like a roof over the feeder and some don’t. Some trial and error along with some investigating what types of birds are in your area and what their preferences are will bring the best results. If you’re not sure about which way to go you might want to go visit a local feed store and talk to some folks there. They can usually get you started in the right direction.
Goldfinches on screen feeder
Tufted Titmouse on platform feeder
Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting and Goldfinch on platform feeder
Another thing we put out for the birds are suet cakes. The woodpeckers love them and so do a lot of the other birds.
Pileated Woodpecker on suet
And of course, sometime around Mother’s Day in this neck of the woods, you better have your hummingbird and oriole feeders out! We put out a few of each type of feeder and put them on different sides of the house. The orioles and the hummingbirds we have around here are very territorial and won’t let another bird at the feeder, so we spread them out. And please, don’t add coloring to the sugar water you use for the birds! Those artificial dyes aren’t good for them.
Two male Orioles
We also put out grape jelly for the orioles. This has worked better for us than putting out just juice feeders or oranges.
To help entice the bluebirds, some people put out grubs in a grub tray.
Just make sure you keep your feeders clean. I clean my oriole and hummingbird feeders between every filling. Just put them in the sink with hot water and a small amount of bleach. I have a bristle brush I use just for the birds. Make sure to rinse well…then rinse again. The seed feeders can get caked up at the bottom, so you want to make sure to check on them too.
There are a lot of good plants/trees/shrubs you can use around your yard to help provide food. Go check out a partial list under the Gardening for Wildlife part 3-Cover. Also, check with your local County Extension Office to see what some good choices are for providing food and attracting wildlife in your area are.