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Sharing Your Landscape With Wildlife

Bird watching
Photo by Hiroko Masuike

Benefits of Wildlife in the Landscape

Studies have shown that being outdoors or gardening can positively affect one’s health, well-being, and overall state of mind. The most effective way to reap the rewards is to invest time in your garden especially when it includes observing wildlife. Habitat loss is a big problem and by inviting wildlife into your property you can help prevent the march towards extinction, this can give a person a sense of purpose by giving back to the planet that gives them life.

Keeps the Ecosystem Clean

Animal waste products such as urine and feces improve the quality of the soil in your garden. The waste is rich in minerals and nutrients that in turn act as fertilizer that improves overall plant health.

Wildlife You Want to Attract

Beneficial insects which can be categorized into three groups: pollinators, predators, and parasitizes.

Pollinators include butterflies, bees, flies, and moths.

Predators include praying mantis, ladybugs, and garden spiders.

Parasitizes parasitic wasps are the main member of this category.

Eastern tiger swallowtail on ‘Mama Mia’ coneflower
Photo by Shelley Haefner

Lizards, toads, and snakes can aid in the decrease of harmful insect populations, and snakes also keep the rodent population down.

Bats are a major predator of mosquitoes which protect us from potentially harmful mosquito bites.

Hummingbirds are key to successful pollination in your landscape, they can aid in more blooms on your flowers as well as a more productive harvest in your vegetable garden.

Predatory birds such as owls and hawks.

Other birds such as chickadees, nuthatches, bluejays, and woodpeckers because they are fun to watch and listen!

Ways to Attract Wildlife

Shelter & Protection

Shrubs, trees, grasses, and other tall plants are homed by a vast number of wildlife, they use them as a safe place to sleep, or protect themselves from predators or harsh weather. Brush piles, streams, rock piles, and dead trees also provide wildlife with protection and shelter. When it comes to fall clean up it is important to spare a thought for beneficial bugs and birds who need shelter over the winter, make sure to leave some leaves and skip cutting perennials back until the springtime when temperature reach 10° C.

Garter Snake under rock in landscape/garden
Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki

Food Sources

The key is to have a diverse selection of native plant species which will provide different sources of food such as berries, nuts, seeds, and nectar in all four seasons.

Avoid using insecticides in your landscape as insects are a major source of food for songbirds. Oak host more than 530 species of caterpillar making them a favourite for all kinds of birds. Berry producing species include Serviceberry, Sumac, Juniper, Holly, Mulberry, and Raspberry. Sunflower, Black-eyed Susan, and Coneflower are perennials that all produce seeds which are enjoyed by birds, chipmunks, and squirrels. Golderod, Aster, Coneflower, Honeysuckle, Viburnum, and Milkweed are a few species that are favoured by pollinators. Milkweed being the most essential component of a healthy monarch habitat.

Monarch caterpillar on Milkweed
Photo by Kristen Grace

Another option to feed wildlife is by purchasing feeders and food to fill yourself.

I recommended Brome Squirrel Buster’s which costs more up front but are worth it due to the amount of money you save in seeds. There are many different types of food you can use in your feeder such as sunflower seeds, safflower, peanuts, suet cakes, mealworms, millet, grape jelly, oranges, etc.

You can also purchase specialty feeders for squirrels, chipmunks, and deer which are quite fun to watch the critters eating away.

Water Sources

A clean source of water is one of the easiest ways to ensure the arrival of wildlife in your landscape. A traditional bird bath is fine, but you can also give some other critters a chance by placing a shallow bowl of water on the ground with some rocks in it so insects will not drown. A shallow depression in a decorative rock filled with water is also a sufficient source of water for many insects. If you want to implement something bigger, a pond is a great option to attract frogs, turtles, birds, chipmunks and tons of other wildlife.

Bee drinking from shallow water dish with rocks
Photo by Lindsay Sheehan

Nesting Areas

From the treetops to belowground, a thriving backyard wildlife habitat provides a home for a diverse array of animals, each requiring secure spaces for their offspring. The more nesting places in your yard, the more inviting it will be. For most species of bird’s trees are essential when constructing a nest, but others prefer dense shrubs, tall grasses, thorny thickets, or birdhouses to make their home. Mammals often nests in sites such as hollow logs, trees, woodpiles, rockpiles, burrows, tall grasses, or thick shrubs. Typical nesting sites of insects include shrubs and flowers, tree leaves and under bark, woodpiles, grasses, or leaf and plant litter.

Dead, dying, or fallen trees provide a habitat for lots of wildlife, from insects to birds to raccoons or squirrels, if the tree doesn’t pose any harm, it is very beneficial to leave it be.

Pileated Woodpecker pecking at old dead tree in Port Stanley
Photo by Jared Goodwin

Aside from natural shelters you can also implement many types of man-made structures to home wildlife. Examples include bat boxes, insect boxes, owl boxes, bird houses, perches, or something as simple as a terracotta pot nestled into the soil.

Female Downy Woodpecker on a branch in Port Stanley
Photo by Katie Goodwin

Welcoming wildlife into your landscape is beneficial for both you and our ecosystem. There are various ways to attract wildlife to your landscape but by implementing protection and shelter, food sources, water sources, and nesting sites these critters will be sure to call your garden home and come back time and time again. Designing your landscape for wildlife will help you to connect with nature and give you a sense of purpose by giving back to our planet.


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