Wildlife need shelter from bad weather and hiding places from predators. Cover takes many forms: Trees, dense shrubs, tall grasses, rock and brush piles, hollow logs, a stack of firewood. The more choices you offer, the more inviting your yard will be.
The vegetative structure checklist:
- Native grasses provide cover from predators and winter insulation.
- Include plants of differing heights and foliage.
- Include a combination of mostly deciduous trees, shrubs, and understory plants.
- Large trees, dead or alive, provide wildlife with vantage points.
Messy is Best
Overgrown grassy reeds, dried flower stalks, and shrubby fruit-filled branches provide food, cover, and protection in the fall and winter for birds.
Best ways to encourage a messy garden:
- Leave your leaves on the ground.
- Allow dried flower heads to stay standing.
- Let grass grow tall and seed.
- Build a brush pile with fallen branches.
- Bare earth patches benefit dust-bathing birds.
- Don’t use chemicals.
- Leave snags (standing dead trees) in place.
- Delay garden clean-up until spring, after several 50 degree F days
At Least Two
Birds need at least two places to find shelter from weather and predators:
- Wooded area
- Bramble patch
- Ground cover
- Rock pile or wall.
- Roosting box (not for rearing of young but for multiple cavity-nesting birds to shelter at once)
- Brush or log pile
- Dead trees, standing or fallen
- Meadow or prairie
- Dense shrubs/thicket
- Water garden or pond