Habitats, feeders can make your backyard a wildlife paradise this winter

It seems that everywhere we look we are seeing trees being torn down and grassy areas being turned into parking lots. Sadly, there’s not much we can do about it. There are things you can do, however, to help replenish some of the natural resources that are destroyed. You can turn your backyards and even small apartment balconies into areas that attract wildlife, butterflies and even bees.

You can provide food by planting wildlife-friendly plants. Choose plant species that bloom and fruit at various times of the year. Like the woodpecker, some birds will dine on insects during the summer but will eat berries in colder weather. Shrubs and trees can provide seeds and berries for mammals and birds while a flower garden will provide food for a variety of insect pollinators and hummingbirds. Bird and squirrel feeders are great to help supplement what is found in nature. If you can, leave dead trees. They can be a food source by attracting insects, lichens, mosses and fungi.

Every living thing needs water. Birds not only need water to drink but to bathe in. The easiest way to do this is to provide a birdbath or a shallow dish of water. Make sure to keep it clean and be careful to use animal-friendly cleaners! No bleach or anything toxic. If you’re fortunate enough to own a little land, you can add a water garden or pond to your property.

Wildlife needs cover from the elements just like we do. In our area we don’t have to worry about snow but we often get heavy rains and extreme heat. Again, dead trees work great for some species. Planting dense shrubs provide shelter for rabbits, turtles and some bird species. Don’t forget about man-made shelters, too, like bathouses and birdhouses.

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There are books available to help you garden for wildlife. One of them is, Texas Wildscapes by Kelly Conrad Bender. It’s published by Texas A&M. Texas Parks and Wildlife is also a great resource. Some organizations provide instructions and help so that your school or home can become a Certified Wildlife Habitat. One such organization is the National Wildlife Federation.

You can make this a family project and have fun with it. Get the kids involved. Plant some trees and shrubs, hang some birdhouses and squirrel boxes and decide where you want your birdbaths.

TWRC Wildlife Center is getting ready for a busy spring and we’re looking for baby feeders. We’ll train you to care for baby squirrels, baby opossums and baby birds so you’ll be ready to start in the spring. No previous experience is needed — just a desire to help wildlife babies, a great attitude and you must be reliable! Send your resume or letter of interest to operations@twrcwildlifecenter.org.

By CHERYL CONLEY, president of the TWRC Wildlife Center

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