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Backyard Conservation - Starting Small

News Feature for Newsletters, Newspapers and Magazines   United States Department of Agriculture
Natural Resources Conservation Service
P.O. Box 2890
Washington, DC 20013

If you are not sure how to make your backyard a haven for wildlife, you may want to start small. Some simple steps can be taken immediately to encourage wildlife into your yard and to determine if this is the hobby for you.

Adding bird feeders is one of the simplest things a homeowner or apartment dweller can do to attract birds. Numerous types of feeders are available. Some are designed to hold a variety of birdseed that most birds like, while others are adapted for specific seeds favored by certain species. If you are unsure of what birds are common visitors in your area, start with a simple feeder and see what shows up for dinner. Some feeders hold suet, or animal fat, that is appealing to many woodpecker species. Still other feeders are designed to hold fruits that may be the desired food of certain birds in your community.

Feeders vary not only in what they hold, but also in how they are mounted. Some feeders fit in your window sill, providing a close up view of your visitors. Other feeders can be hung from poles stuck in the ground or from brackets attached to your house. If you are concerned about the cleanliness of your deck or porch, you may want to place feeders away from your home so the droppings from both the birds and the seeds will fall in your yard.

If you have always wanted a pond, but worried about how much work it would be or the amount of space it would take, consider a barrel or tub water garden. Constructed from a whiskey barrel or plastic tub, these small ponds can be placed on a patio and planted with a variety of small water plants. In winter, either empty the tub and restart in the spring, or move it indoors during the winter if you have a sunny spot or supplemental lighting in your house. These small water gardens provide water for wildlife in the summer and, if fitted with a small pump, provide you with the pleasing sound of running water.

If you do not have a yard, or are not sure gardening is for you, try planting some large flower pots or hanging baskets on your porch or deck. You can plant these with a variety of flowers, vegetables, and herbs that will be attractive to birds and butterflies. Herbs such as parsley and dill will provide the caterpillars of the Swallowtail Butterfly with a necessary food source. Annual flowers--those that bloom and die in one growing season--can easily be grown in pots and are attractive to birds. Pots of petunias and hanging baskets of fuchsia attract hummingbirds.

Even if this is all you do, it will help improve the wildlife habitat in your neighborhood.

For more information on Backyard Conservation practices, contact your local conservation district or the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Or call 1-888-LANDCARE (toll free) for a free colorful Backyard Conservation booklet and tip sheets.

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Backyard Conservation is a cooperative project of
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Wildlife Habitat Council
National Association of Conservation Districts


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