I didn’t either until I read this article from a fellow writer at Dave’s Garden. And since the National Wildlife Federation has declared May as the Garden for Wildlife Month, now is the perfect time to start making your yard attractive to those critters you want to attract. My last article was about how to keep pests from damaging your yard but this one is for those of us who really want to see wildlife enjoying our yard. As promised in that article, I want to share some tips on how to get wildlife to visit your yard.
The first thing that the critters need to find in your yard is something to eat. Of course, you need to decide what kind of wildlife you want visiting you. Different insects and animals like different things. In fact, sometimes you need to plant flowers to attract the insects that will attract the wildlife. Native plants and wildflowers such as Coneflower, Flax, Sunflowers, Poppies, Honeysuckle, Lavender, Foxglove, Cosmos, Snapdragons, and Daisies are wonderful for attracting all kinds of butterflies, bees, and other insects. Certain types of grass such as Sorghum or Sudan grass will attract grazers like deer and rabbits to your yard. And Red Clover is popular with bees, hummingbirds, rabbits, and deer.
Another thing that all wildlife needs is water. Not just for drinking but for cleaning (bird baths) or cooling off. You can try placing a birdbath by your bird feeders or flowers. Having some type of water features such as a fountain or small pond in your yard can also provide entertainment for some animals. If you have ever seen a raccoon clean their food in the water before eating it, you know how adorable that can be. I take a lot of pictures and even have a field camera out back to get pictures of the wildlife eating and playing. Chipmunks are also fascinated by water and you will probably see them playing in any water they can find.
Certain trees like Oaks, Persimmons, Beechnuts, and other fruit or nut trees are major attractants for birds, deer, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, foxes, rabbits, and opossums. They are not only good food sources but they are also perfect places for your birds, squirrels, and even raccoons to live in. You can even attract beavers, moose, and elk with Willow trees if you live in an area where they are plentiful. Birds of prey such as owls and hawks will use trees as a hunting perch all year long. Other animals use trees for cover to hide from predators or to live under. Fallen trees are good for the wildlife to hide around as well so if there is a fallen tree in your yard and it is not bothering you or your neighbors, leave it there for the wildlife to play with.
Bird Houses and Feeders
The easiest wildlife to attract with the widest variety is birds. Depending on where you live, you may have hundreds of types of birds at any time of the year. In Missouri where I live, there are over 400 different species of birds. Although about 100 of these are just passing through on their way somewhere else, the other 330 call Missouri home all year long. Some of the most common that I have seen here include the Eastern Bluebird (our state bird), Blue Jay, Robin, Tufted Titmouse, Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, several kinds of Finches and Wrens, and some woodpeckers like the Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, and the Hairy Woodpecker. We also have quite a few different species of hawks, vultures, eagles, and owls. The only thing you need to do to attract birds is to throw some seeds out the door and they will flock to your yard pretty fast. However, you may want to get a bird feeder or two and even birdhouses for your birds to lay their eggs in.
Keep Your Yard Humane
What this means is that if you want to attract wildlife to your yard, you cannot use pesticides, traps, or chemical fertilizers. In fact, you should not be using chemicals of any kind on your lawn when there are plenty of chemical-free products that work just as well, if not better. This is important for everyone, not just the wildlife. Think about your dog or cat that walks in the yard or worse, your children or grandchildren. Who wants to lay in the grass and stare at the clouds if the grass is covered in poison?
According to the National Wildlife Federation, your yard should contain a certain amount of each of the following: food, water, cover, a place to raise babies, and sustainable practices. I have listed many of them in this article but here is a link to a checklist that you can use to be sure your yard is ready for the critters!