Each Father’s Day the Wachiska Audubon Society has a Wildlife Habitat Garden tour. What is this? Can your yard qualify? As towns get larger and farmers cultivate more land, our wildlife shrinks as their homes disappears. Since 1936 the National Wildlife Federation has been encouraging city dwellers to develop their yards to fill the gap.

          Tiny HUMMINGBIRDS fly thousands of miles north to find a place to spend the summer and rear their children. Habitat is the living place of an organism.  The four main parts they need to survive are (1) food, (2) water, (3) cover, and (4) a place to raise young. Once they find a good place they are likely to return the next summer.


(1)     FOOD 

          Every spring I plant LANTANA near a big window. Not just one but usually seven or eight as they get 2 1/2 feet tall and wide so the tiny creatures can see them as they  fly over.  The window is for me to watch for them as they collect energy on their way back south.  The plants are also busy with several varieties of BUTTERFLIES so it is a “neat” place to watch.

          There is a food chain going on in your yard! Your favorite plant is being eaten by a GRASSHOPPER who is eaten by a TOAD or a FROG (if you have a pond for them.  The FROG can be eaten by a SNAKE who is picked up by that HAWK who visits your bird feeders occasionally. When I see no BIRD or SQUIRREL activity in my yard, I look to see if a RED TAILED HAWK isn’t perched in the REDBUD TREE near the feeders.



          Water is as important as food in a wildlife habitat garden. I noticed more BIRDS than usual in the yard the last dry summer. It was hard to keep all five baths full with all their splashing. The edges of the LILY POND were a good place to perch and dip their heads. I had to keep the ponds filled so they would not fall in.

          BUTTERFLIES need their own watering hole, so a shallow bird bath with a brick in it works quite well. In fact, one on the ground with mud available at all times is ideal.  You might even add a little manure to the mud for them to get the minerals they need. Have you heard the word “puddling”? It is used for when a group of BUTTERFLIES all gather in a wet, muddy area to drink.



          Wildlife needs a house much like we do so you can plant your yard for food and cover in the same plant. Evergreen trees are ideal for a number of birds. They need to be fairly close to your feeder so the smaller birds can escape the bigger ones such as HAWKS. A dense shrub works as well as the big BIRDS can not maneuver in the branches as well.  My HENRY LAUDERS WALKING STICK is a favorite bird place with its twisted stems, hanging catkins, and dense leaves. A HAWK is unable to get through the tangle. Some summers a pair of CARDINALS nest in there.



          Places to raise young can be very different. Every summer a ROBIN wants to have a nest on top of a bend in the drain. SPARROWS will nest almost anywhere. I had a covered ledge built on the south side of the garage, under the eave so birds could escape the snow and the winter storms.  The SPARROWS loved one end of it.  Some BIRDS will nest in your hanging baskets if they are well protected from above.

          In front there is a CHOKEBERRY BUSH that has white blooms in the spring with clusters of black (sour and bitter to me) berries that stay on into the winter.  When food gets scarce the ROBINS who stay here all or most of the winter, jump up and grab the BERRIES. This loosens others and soon they are all gone. ROBINS need a little lawn as worms seem to be their favorite food. In spring when I am digging there are several who are not far behind picking up the WORMS and scratching for others.

          In back there are two large MOCK ORANGE BUSHES that birds like. The thicker the shrub, the more likely a nest.  Above the back gate I have a trellis covered with a WESTERN WISTERIA VINE that tangles a great deal but also makes a good territory for a nest. Your favorite large, thick shrub or several of them together, will invite a nest.

          Have you read lately that not only HONEY BEES but our BUMBLE BEES are in trouble probably from the same “causes”. So we are encouraged to “garden for BUMBLE BEES”. They like purple and blue. Last summer many of my plants were pollinated by BUMBLE BEES. All but the young queens die in the fall and they live in underground spaces, empty bird houses, sheds, rock piles, and uncut grass clumps.

Copyright 2014