Visitors such as birds, butterflies, and other wildlife to your landscape can be a source of enjoyment and refreshing, even if you’re not an avid bird-watcher or have no idea what kind of butterfly that was on your flowers. Whether or not you can identify the many species that may come to your yard doesn’t have to affect your enjoyment of natural life. Not everyone has that aim for their landscape, but if you’re among those who take delight in visiting wildlife, there are things you can do in your yard to encourage them to return again and again, as well as to attract new ones.
Wildlife in your yard can be extremely beneficial. Bats, many birds, and frogs and toads will eat insects. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds can assist in flower pollination, which is especially important if you have fruit trees. Modern development and industrialization has reduced the habitat for many birds and butterflies, so you can do your part to provide a haven for some with these tips.
- Reduce the amount of your turf by replacing some of it with native grasses and wildflowers in your yard. Birds and butterflies are more likely to be drawn to familiar plants. An added benefit of using native plants is that they require much less water and are generally weed-resistant. That means less herbicide and fertilizer is needed, as well as less watering. Your county extension agent may be able to give you information on specific plants and grasses which grew in your area before it was developed. The Minnesota Native Plant Society is also a good resource. Replanting with original plants is called “habitat gardening,” and it is growing in popularity.
- Provide a variety of sheltering areas – shrubs of various sizes, tall grasses, and trees can provide nesting spots and cover for a wide variety of species.
- Eliminate chemical pesticides and fertilizers and opt for organic methods instead.
- Provide multiple water sources. Birds choose water sources at different heights. Some prefer running water, so a bubbling fountain is one option. Others choose water in low areas; a flat-basin bird bath set into a rock garden works well. And remember bird baths will attract birds of various sizes, so put some larger stones in your bird bath to provide perches for the smaller ones. Small ponds provide water for some birds, as well as drinking areas for larger animals such as deer.
- Consider leaving dead trees in place in some spots. Some birds are cavity nesters, and dead trees provide the perfect housing.
- Keep your feeders full. A variety of seeds, fruit, and nuts will attract a variety of birds, but you can’t go wrong with black-oil sunflower seeds – they’re among the most popular with birds. And keep those feeders full during spring and fall migration seasons; you’ll attract temporary visitors that you might otherwise miss. Your local Audobon Society or other bird-watching chapter should be able to tell you what kinds of birds frequent your area and what types of food they prefer.
- If you have a cat, keep it indoors, or supervise it outdoors. Cats are a major threat to the bird population.
- Install raptor decals on large windows which catch the sunlight. This will eliminate (or at least reduce) the amount of birds crashing into your windows because of the sky reflection.
- If hummingbirds are your favorite visitors, include the plants they are most attracted to in your garden beds.
- Plant butterfly-enticing flowers in your garden bed. You can also add milkweed around a pond, which will encourage monarch butterflies.
If you’d like a more wildlife-friendly landscape but don’t know where to start, we can help you incorporate some of these ideas into a unique landscape design that will reflect the vision you have for your yard as well as your enjoyment of wildlife.