Wilderness Underfoot: If you plant it, they will come

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11152297582854.jpg’, ”, ”);
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StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11152299432854.jpg’, ”, ‘A cardinal on a mulberry bush – It’s our official state bird. If you want this colorful creature to feel welcome in your yard, plant berries, sumac, nut trees, dogwood, tulip trees and evergreens. Cardinals will often build nests in shrubs and bushes, and if they nest in your yard – as non-migrating birds – you’ll have their company all four seasons. To learn more about natural landscaping, check out the Illinois Audubon Society web site: www.illinoisaudubon.org’);

Getting started on creating a backyard paradise for birds

When trying to attract birds to their yards, most people begin by installing bird houses, as well as feeders filled with purchased seeds. This works well enough, and the birds are happy to take advantage of these offerings, but if you stop there, you’re neglecting a more interesting solution: natural landscaping.

Like any kind of yard project, creating a natural landscape can be as simple or complicated as you wish to make it. It might start with a project as easy as a planter box placed outside your window, filled with flowers or fruit that attract certain species of birds. Perhaps you add a butterfly garden, a native prairie garden, or bird-friendly shrubs and saplings to your yard. As you consider projects for a natural landscape, remember that birds enjoy a varied habitat that includes open stretches of lawn allowing them to pick through the grass for worms, grubs and other insects. They also need plenty of bushes and trees where they can hide when predators are nearby, and where they can build shelters to rear their young.

The use of native species of plants in landscaping is becoming more popular. It is not necessary to do so, but sticking with native plants may improve your chances of attracting certain birds. This is because they have adapted to living in the wild habitats near your home. Plants that bear fruit and nuts are especially attractive to birds: grapes and berries offer variety to the birds’ diets, and nut trees provide shelter as well as food.

The addition of flowers will also attract bees, butterflies and other insects. Some people might not like insects, but you should realize that the more attractive your yard is to birds, the more attractive it will be to other wildlife. Also, remember that it is important to avoid pesticides and herbicides if you’re trying to

create a natural landscape.

From the May 4-10, 2005, issue

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