For many homeowners, no yard is complete without songbirds. The National Wildlife Federation requires five elements to certify your yard as a “Wildlife Habitat”: food, water, cover, places to raise young and sustainable gardening practices.
The National Audubon Society makes these recommendations for increasing the number and diversity of birds that you attract to your backyard:
- “Increase the kinds of foods that you offer and the times of year that you offer them. Although many backyard birds are insect eaters, you can supplement their diets with nuts, seeds, fruit or nectar, depending on the species of birds you'd like to attract.
- Provide a clean, fresh source of water for drinking and bathing. Adding a drip or misting feature will increase the number of visitors, as will using water heaters in winter to keep the water ice free.
- Make sure birds have places to hide from predators. Native trees and shrubs of different densities and heights give them good places to retreat. Evergreens offer critical cover in the winter.
- Learn about the nesting requirements of the birds that may stay in your yard during the breeding season. Provide the native trees and shrubs they prefer or supplement with nest boxes.”
For more information:
According to the National Audubon Society and the National Wildlife Federation, native plants provide the best overall food sources for native wildlife and may support 10 to 50 times as many species as non-native plants. Not only are native birds adapted to native food sources, but native plants offer native wildlife both familiar nesting sites and useful cover. Another advantage is native plants generally demand less fertilizer, water and pest control in the landscape, since they're adapted to regional soils and climate. Native plants are increasingly available for sale in Idaho's progressive nurseries. For information on specific species, see:
What is it?
West Nile Virus is a potentially serious illness, with approximately 1 in 150 infected individuals developing WNV meningitis or encephalitis. Although the Centers for Disease Control estimates that four in five infected people will show no signs at all, severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. Among milder symptoms are fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back.
How is it spread?
Although humans can feasibly spread the disease among one another through blood transfusions organ transplants, breastfeeding and even between mother and fetus, WNV is typically transmitted from infected birds to humans via disease-carrying mosquitoes. Hundreds of species of birds can be infected with WNV.
What steps can you take in your garden to minimize your risk?
According to the National Audubon Society, the best way to reduce the presence of WNV in your neighborhood is to keep mosquitoes from breeding in your yard:
- Discard old tires and aluminum cans and drill drainage holes in the bottoms of items in which water collects.
- Prevent water from accumulating in flowerpots or barrels and on swimming pool and boat covers.
- Change the water in birdbaths and pet dishes at least every 3-4 days (some experts recommend every 48 hours).
- Clean roof gutters, clean and chlorinate swimming pools and turn over wheelbarrows and plastic wading pools when you're not using them.
- Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with mosquito-eating fish.
- Fill water-collecting tree cavities with soil or sand.
- Alter your landscaping to eliminate standing water.