Help wildlife by planting native landscaping
Now plan to add native plants to your garden over the next year to help birds like this bohemian waxwing shown here on a viburnum. Image Credit: Wisconsin DNR
Madison, Wis. – Now is the time to start planning native landscaping to help birds, pollinators and other wildlife over the next year.
Not only can adding some native plants help provide food and shelter for pollinators, birds, and other wildlife, but it can also increase your chances of seeing wildlife. Rain gardens with special native wetland plants can also help manage rainwater on a property and keep lakes, rivers, and groundwater clean.
“Late fall and winter are a great time to start planning your native landscaping next year,” said Amy Staffen, a DNR conservation biologist, who shares some tips on native landscaping that she even practices in her yard
Visit the DNR’s Native Plants website for step-by-step landscaping instructions, a video of tips for fall and winter landscaping, and an expanded list of resources.
“Planting seeds in later fall or winter, even on the snow, will help them get a higher germination rate in spring,” said Staffen. “When you order native plants or seeds now, you have the widest choice to meet your landscaping goals.”
Staffen’s Beginner’s Native Plants List and a bird plant list from avian expert and DNR conservation biologist Ryan Brady are featured in the winter edition of Wisconsin Natural Resources, along with a list of monarch butterfly plants from the Wisconsin Monarch Collaborative and Madison Audubon.
These colorful plant lists can be downloaded from the DNR Native Plants website. If you subscribe to the magazine now by February 1, 2021, the instructions will be delivered directly to your mailbox. You can also find other great features there, like winter hiking recommendations and snowshoeing trails.
The annual publication of Field Notes is also included in the winter edition. It’s packed with short stories and photos from DNR Natural Heritage Conservation staff, partners, and volunteers protecting endangered species and state natural areas.
Why Native Landscaping?
Native plants that evolved in Wisconsin have a far greater ability to fuel life in the food chain than non-native plants such as ornamental trees and flowers that are common in many courtyards. This is because native plants have evolved along with the insects that eat them, and the insects are better able to digest the native plants.
It is particularly important to offer the birds more natural habitat. A landmark 2019 study of seven leading bird conservation organizations, including the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology, confirmed a nearly 30% loss in breeding bird numbers in North America since 1970.
Other research has shown that habitat loss and degradation are two main drivers of decline. For example, one study showed that suburban neighborhoods on the east coast, where less than 70% of native vegetation is present – and that means most neighborhoods – birds do not have the insects and seeds they need to eat and problems have in reproduction.
And it’s not just birds. The sharp decline in butterfly populations in the eastern and western US monarchs over the past 20 years, as well as populations of many pollinators and other insects, have contributed to habitat for the private land that makes up 85% of Wisconsin’s 34.8 million acres to lend.
Learn more about why more Wisconsinites are engaging in native landscaping in All in to Boost Birds in the Fall 2020 issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine.