Tips On Planning Your Wildlife Habitat

By Walter Scott
BLOOMFIELD, IA–On a recent trip to the lake, I noticed a Canada Goose in a tree. It is not common to see geese in trees, except at our place.

A large branch extends from a dead tree in the water. For several years, a goose has nested in this tree. I would imagine it is ideal habitat after she learned that geese can land in trees. Her nest is well off the water, and a Raccoon or other predator would have to swim to get to the base of her tree. I would not want to be the one to climb the tree with an angry mother goose protecting the first branch.

When we built the lake, I wanted to remove all the standing timber that would be flooded, but I was encouraged to leave them for the wildlife. I never thought a standing tree in the lake would be habitat for a goose, but nature has a way of adapting. Anything we can do to provide wildlife habitat will be used. Sometimes it will not be used in the way we planned, but it will be used.

Our Wood Duck house raised two groups of bluebirds. The Wood Ducks had to go find a tree. If a person takes the time to learn about the preferences of the species they are trying to attract, habitat improvement becomes easy.

Bluebirds like a box or tree cavity. They do not want a perch on the outside and they prefer an open area such as a pasture or lawn to hunt for bugs and let the babies fly. Quail and pheasants like heavy grass or dense brush in which to nest.

A property looks much neater with trimmed fencerows, but more gamebirds will be attracted if they are not. Both species like to have short grass or an open area near the nesting site where the young can get away from heavy morning dew.

A baby quail is tiny and looks somewhat like a bumblebee with stilts. They need to get warm and dry shortly after leaving the nest. They also need to stay near heavy cover to avoid predation by hawks. Pheasant chicks are about the same size as a baby chicken and they can maneuver through more heavy cover than a quail, but still need a place to get dry.

We can do both species a big favor by being a bit less compulsive about weeds in the fences. A brush pile or downed tree will provide cover for a Wild Turkey to nest and raise her brood. Turkeys like to nest in the timber or near the edge. The eggs are laid in a shallow depression lined with leaves and feathers. When the hen is not on the eggs, she will cover the nest with leaves and small sticks so it is well camouflaged.

When we cut firewood in the winter, we stack the brush and usually burn the pile to keep from freezing to death when we take a break or to use the brush pile to cook a hotdog. We leave a few piles, and probably should leave more for nesting areas. When we have hauled out the firewood and stacked the brush, the remaining clearing is a perfect place for the young turkey poults to forage.

I have discovered it is not difficult to provide habitat for deer. Standing timber and a food source is all that is required. Last year, I planted several thousand trees, many of them various pine species, in order to expand our habitat. Deer consider small pine trees to be a food source rather than habitat in which to live. One year later, I have not found any survivors among the pine trees. They might have to be replaced with oak trees and the deer can eat the acorns in a few years.

You can plan your habitat, but it will not always work out as planned. — West Central Tribune