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Please send your question regarding habitat development and gardening for birds to gardening@birdzilla.com. We'll answer as many as we can and post selected answers here.

Q. Wildlife doesn't just randomly occur in a given area; it is there in response to habitat which meets its needs. What are the four essential elements of a wildlife habitat, including for birds?
DF - Atlanta, GA

A. Food, water, cover (protection from weather and predators) and space to raise a family.

Tom Patrick is president of the Windstar Wildlife Institute. Tom's company provides training and certification in wildlife habitat development programs. Thanks to Tom and some of his Certified Wildlife Habitat Naturalists for answering the questions.

Q. Feeders are used to supplement the foods provided by trees, shrubs, flowers, crops in food plots, vines and ground covers. What are the different types of feeders?
TR - LA, CA.

A. Cylindrical, hopper, suet, hummingbird, squirrel and fruit.

 

Virginia Plants for Wildlife Habitat & Conservation Landscaping
Do you enjoy observing nature...hearing the song of the chickadee...watching hummingbirds fill up on nectar from trumpet vines...listening to the chattering of squirrels...seeing the beauty and grace of a monarch butterfly perched on a milkweed... experiencing the antics of a Mockingbird...the cooing of the Mourning Doves...the swiftness of the Cottontail...and the brilliance of a Cardinal or Baltimore Oriole?

If the answer is "yes", you'll probably want to landscape your property for wildlife so you can experience even more from Mother Nature by attracting more wildlife to your property.

Wildlife doesn't just randomly appear in a given area. It is there because of favorable habitat. The essential elements that you must provide in your habitat are food, water, cover and a place to raise a family. To attract the most wildlife, you need native trees, shrubs, groundcover, vines and wildflowers, many of which will provide food and shelter.

Native or indigenous plants naturally occur in the region in which they evolved. They are adapted to local soil, rainfall and temperature conditions, and have developed natural defenses to many insects and diseases. Because of these traits, native plants will grow with minimal use of water, fertilizers and pesticides. Wildlife species evolve with plants; therefore, they use native plant communities as their habitat. Using native plants helps preserve the balance and beauty of natural ecosystems.

Remember the function served by plants and structures is more important than their appearance. In other words, don't base your planting decisions solely on what a plant looks like. Following are WindStar Wildlife Institute's plant recommendations for wildlife habitats in Virginia.

Trees
Tall --Eastern Hemlock, White Oak, Wild Cherry, White Pine, Red Mulberry, Sourgum, Common Persimmon, Shagbark Hickory, Virginia Pine, Red Oak

Medium/Small --Serviceberry, Eastern Redbud, Flowering Dogwood, American Holly, Southern Crabapple, Eastern Red Cedar, American Hornbeam, Cockspur Hawthorn, Hackberry, Sassafras

Shrubs
Summer fruits -- American Elder, Serviceberry, Highbush Blueberry, Blackberries, Raspberries

Fall fruits -- Red-osier Dogwood, Winterberry Holly, Inkberry, Common Juniper, Canada Yew

Winter fruits -- Viburnums, Northern Bayberry, Sumacs, Red Chokeberry, Scarlet Firethorn, Spicebush

Wildflowers
Butterflyweed, New England Aster, Tickseed Sunflower, Joe-Pye Weed, Cardinal Flower, Common Milkweed, Black-eyed Susan, Eastern Columbine, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Grass-leaf Blazingstar, Oxeye Sunflower, Wild Indigo, Spring Beauty, Dutchman's Breeches, Smooth Sweet Cicely, Common Blue Wood Aster, Blue-stem Goldenrod

Groundcover
Straw Lily, Violet Wood Sorrel, Partridgeberry, Wintergreen, Blue Wood Sedge, Wild Ginger, Golden Ragwort

Vines
Trumpet Creeper, American Bittersweet, Virginia Creeper, Coral Honeysuckle

Grasses
Indiangrass, Little Bluestem, Gama Grass, Virginia Wild Rye, Bottlebrush Grass, Canada Wild Rye, Broomsedge, Virginia Switchgrass

Virginia's landscape includes a wide range of natural communities which include three major regions--the Coastal Plain, from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Fall Line in the west; the Piedmont, from the Fall Line in the east to the Blue Ridge Mountains in the west; and the Mountains, including the Blue Ridge Mountain, the Ridge and Valley, and the Appalachian Plateau Provinces. The Virginia Native Plant Society can provide lists of plants for a specific region.

For more information on improving your wildlife habitat, visit the WindStar Wildlife Institute web site. On the web site, you can also apply to certify your property as a wildlife habitat, register for the "Certified Wildlife Habitat Naturalist e-Learning course, become a member and sign up for the FREE WindStar Wildlife Garden Weekly e-mail newsletter.


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