In mid-April, an expedition team finishing a three-year search for the recently declared extinct ivory-billed woodpecker in Louisiana yielded promising results.
The bird may have actually survived extinction! While it is unlikely you’ll spot an ivory-billed woodpecker in your backyard, chances are you’ve seen a similar looking cousin, the pileated woodpecker, along with many other birds and wild animals.
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The recent COVID epidemic, in which many people worked from home, provided ample opportunities for backyard wildlife viewing. For my family, we are fortunate to live in a wooded area south of Tallahassee where deer and other wild animals are common.
Native food plants, bird feeders, hummingbird feeders and bird baths all attract wildlife, and our vegetable gardens are alluring as well!
Recent highlights included watching a doe nurse a fawn and even hide the fawn near our house, likely using our presence as protection from predators. Observing hummingbirds close-up was always a thrill along with seeing pileated woodpeckers turn a dead pine into a condominium of nest holes.
Opossums were nightly visitors, the usual suspects for triggering our outdoor motion lights, and the annual arrival of swallow-tailed kites was always something to celebrate. The birds and animals may not be rare species, but they are thrilling to see nonetheless.
Here are some tips for attracting wildlife to your backyard:
- Seek advice from professionals in creating a landscape plan of native plants and trees that feed birds and attract pollinators such as butterflies and bees. Seek a variety of plants that will bloom at different times of the year and make sure to include a couple of evergreen trees.
- Allow some areas in the yard to be “wild zones” and build brush piles that allow cover for animals to rest and raise young.
- Birdbaths, fountains and ponds can provide vital water sources for wildlife.
- Feeders, birdhouses and nesting boxes can help our feathered friends. Seek advice as to what kind of species might be attracted to your yard. And many birds, along with bats, eat lots of pesky mosquitoes and flies! Bat boxes are ideally suited if placed near a permanent water source.
- Seek to replace chemicals with organic pest control methods.
- Leave some dead trees where possible to create food and shelter for certain birds and animals.
- Keep domestic pets from chasing or killing wildlife.
- Place a bench or wildlife blind in the yard so you can enjoy your wild visitors! A remote trail camera is also fun. Keep binoculars or a camera with a good telephoto lens handy so you can share results.
COVID has reconnected many people with the natural world, often in their own backyards, and it doesn’t have to let up now that conditions are improving. Plus, by planting a diverse array of native plants in our yards, we can help ensure healthy populations of birds, wildlife, butterflies and bees.
Doug Alderson often writes about the dynamic and quirky nature of his home state of Florida. His latest book is an all-color hardback about Florida’s rivers. Learn more atdougalderson.net.
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