Your Own Wild Kingdom

A lot of us look at our gorgeously-planted and perfectly-manicured yards and think, I could just about live out here; well, for many wild animals, your landscape really is their home. And inviting the local wildlife to hang out and share our outdoor spaces is just another way to get a lot of enjoyment out of a beautiful yard.

Attracting wildlife into your yard doesn’t take much. Just like us, birds and other creatures have just a few basic needs that have to be met in order to survive. But whereas our list includes a high-speed wi-fi connection, a Starbucks within walking distance, and TiVo, the animal kingdom’s list is way easier to pull off. Just provide food, shelter, and water, and you’re well on your way to your very own backyard habitat.

Evergreens: Besides being the backbones in our gardens, evergreens provide year-round shelter for birds. When placed out in the landscape and away from the house, they encourage birds to build nests. And that keeps them coming back.

Berries: Plants that produce berries are a fantastic food source for birds and other critters. Some popular choices that also happen to look great when incorporated into almost any landscape are: beautyberry, yaupon holly, wax myrtle, nandina, mahonia, and inkberry holly.

Flowers: A bed of brightly-colored flowers is to pollinators what quarter-beer night and a mini-skirt contest is to frat guys. It brings them in in droves.  Butterflies, bees, birds: the more flowers, the more of them you’ll see.

Feeders: Bird feeders are the quickest way to get some avian action in your landscape. But be aware that not all feed is created equal. You can use different kinds to attract different feathered friends. Safflower seed will bring in cardinals, for instance. Peanuts appeal to wrens and woodpeckers. Thistle invites finches. Oil sunflower is a favorite of chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice. (Settle down; that’s really what they’re called.)

Water: You can go a few different ways with this one. Small birdbaths are one way. Birds can drink or bathe in them. A little trickling sound, like from a small fountain, is practically a bird magnet.

If butterflies are what you’re after, keep it really shallow. Try filling a birdbath basin with sand and maybe some mushroom compost. Then add just enough water to make it slushy, with just a thin layer of standing water in it. Stick in a flat sunning rock or two that sit up out of the muck, and it’s like a butterfly day spa.

Or super-size your water and build a pond. Besides being able to stock it with fish, you’ll naturally attract new visitors like frogs.

A word of warning here. Having fish in a pond can often invite larger predators looking to belly up to your pond like it’s a strip mall sushi bar. Raccoons, hawks, even bears (in some parts of the country) can find their way to your backyard seafood buffet!

But sometimes, a large body of water is just a nice way to cool off after a long day of leaping and bounding and generally contributing to the Circle of Life….courtesy of dreamer.