University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
FALL LANDSCAPING FOR WILDLIFE
Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
that fall is here, most gardeners, myself included, are clearing out
undergrowth and unwanted vegetation around their garden and homes.
we may not want may be wanted, and even needed, during the winter
a landscape attractive to wildlife, you'll need to make sure they have
food, and cover. Fall is a good time to
think about where they can get water in winter.
If you don't have a pond or stream, a heated birdbath might be on your
shopping list if you don't already have one.
varies with animal and bird species, and can change during the
Some birds, for instance, may just eat seeds
while others may prefer fruits at one season and seeds at
Wildlife, especially birds, prefer to eat plants
from their habitats-- plants native to your area.
that wildlife can't come inside as we do in storms and winter weather,
need cover-- a place of protection from the elements. Evergreen
are most effective for
this. They also need cover from
predators. This includes a safe place come spring to raise their
young. Since birds fly, they often live at different
levels depending on species, so it is important to leave not only tall
but lower understory ones, and shrubs as well.
you are clearing brush, or need to, leave some piles in a back corner
or out of
sight for smaller mammals. Of course if you leave tall grass for the
mammals, you may not want this area near your gardens, or they'll have
to live and feed!
are clearing out "weeds", consider an out-of-the-way patch of
wildflowers like the fall asters and goldenrod.
These provide food for pollinators like bees, as well as many
insects. Many of these are beneficial insects,
attacking the ones we don't want, others provide food for the
Even the ragweed most consider a vile weed in
our manicured landscapes, and to which some are allergic, has seeds
rich in oil
which provide a late fall and winter food source for the likes of
doves, pheasants, blackbirds, and sparrows.
weeds, or wildflowers depending on your perspective, that have high
value include the common milkweed, goldenrod, smartweeds, and staghorn
sumac. The milkweed is noted as a main
source for monarch butterfly larvae, but it also attracts many
insects. So does the goldenrod, plus it
provides cover for songbirds, rabbits, and small mammals.
that low creeping plant with small
pink flower spikes through the season, makes many oil-rich seeds which
fall birds look for. The staghorn sumac
seeds are eaten by many birds in fall and winter, including robins,
and cardinals. Rabbits, small mammals,
and deer will feed on the sumac bark.
considering clearing out plants, keep in mind that cherries, whether
planted, provide food for about 70 different species of song and game
Crabapples supply food for birds, particularly the purple finch, blue
northern oriole, cedar waxwing, and robin.
cedars, so prevalent in the northeast, are an excellent source of food
shelter for many birds. They eat the seeds, and in winter, the
branches provide cover, a place to escape the fierce winter winds.
especially blackberries and raspberries that are a good food source for
and small animals in summer, also provide a protective haven for
the winter. Alders, one of the first trees to reappear on land that has
cleared and allowed to regrow, offer twigs and buds for munching by
rabbits, and a protective cover for these animals,
people are familiar with the red-osier dogwood. This native twiggy
found growing along streams and in abandoned fields and has brilliant
stems in mid-winter. It provides browsing for deer, bear, beaver, and
Many species of birds enjoy its bluish-black fruit, found in clusters
ends of the stems. Ruffed grouse, pheasant, and wild turkeys especially
Its low growing branches provide good cover for many of these birds.
other plants are useful to wildlife for food and cover. Deer will
browse on the
ironwood tree, maples, and what is perhaps their most favorite, the
ash. The hophornbeam, another native tree, has fruits in the fall that
secondary food for grouse. In winter, the tree buds are this bird's
hasn't seen squirrels gathering acorns from oak trees for winter? Not
squirrels, but other game animals and mammals eat acorns, as well as
red fruits of the low growing partridgeberry.
this fall as you clean up some of the brush around your yard, why not
some for the wildlife this winter. They'll be glad you did. Look
around too while you are cleaning up to
make sure you're providing water, food, and cover for the wildlife you
want. Any one of these factors, if not
present can limit who lives with you in your landscape and would be a
point for choosing new plants for planting now or next spring.