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Wildlife Gardening Resource List

Attracting wildlife to your backyard

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Attracting Hummingbirds

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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Vaccinium parvifolium, Shepherdia canadensis, Sambucus cerulea, Rubus leucodermis, Rosa gymnocarpa, Amelanchier alnifolia, Rosa nutkana, Oemleria cerasiformis, Berberis nervosa, Berberis aquifolium, Malus fusca, Prunus virginiana demissa, Prunus emarginata, Quercus garryana, Corylus cornuta, Crataegus douglasii, Rhamnus purshiana, Vaccinium ovatum, Vaccinium ovatum, Umbellularia californica, Rubus spectabilis, Gardening to attract birds, Attracting wildlife, Rosaceae (Rose Family), Gaultheria shallon

I am planning a garden in Seattle and my highest priority is to attract birds. Do you have a list of plants I can use as a reference?


This is a more difficult question than one might imagine. According to Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest, "almost 300 species of birds are native to the Pacific Northwest. Many of them could call your yard home for at least part of the year, depending on what you provide for them. So it depends on what species of birds you want to attract and what environments they need."
Source: Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest, by Russell Link (University of Washington Press, 1999, p. 48).
There is a lot of good advice on planning your garden with birds (and other creatures) in mind.

Washington Native Plant Society has a resource page devoted to native plants for wildlife.

The Miller Library has a booklist featuring titles on attracting wildlife to the garden: Information Resources for Gardening with Wildlife.

Another good source for this information is Native Plants of the Northwest, by Wallace W. Hansen. Scroll down to Wallys Wildlife Habitat Recommendations.
Following is an annotated list of plants that attract birds for western Washington: the oaks, chinquapin, Oregon myrtle, western hazelnut, cascara, and all trees in the Rose family (hawthorn, bitter cherry, chokecherry and Pacific crabapple). Native shrubs include: serviceberry, salal, all Oregon grapes, Indian plum, bittercherry, roses, blackcap, thimbleberry, salmonberry, Pacific blackberry, red and blue elderberries, russet buffaloberry, mountain ash, snowberry, and all huckleberries.

Seattle Audubon's book and online resource, Audubon at Home in Seattle: Gardening for Life has a chapter on designing a garden to attract birds, and it includes a plant list.

Date 2018-07-13
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Honeybees and pollinators, Honeybee diseases, Attracting wildlife

Apparently there has been some mystery about struggling honeybees lately, and today I saw what appeared to be a honeybee frantically grooming herself on a strip-upholstered lawn chair. I didn't know what to do for the creature, who eventually blew or flew away. What should I do if I see this in the future? Also, does the grooming behavior inform the mystery in any way?


You may want to talk directly with someone at the Puget Sound Beekeepers Association. They meet at 6:30p.m. every fourth Tuesday of each month except July and December at the Washington Park Arboretum 2200 Arboretum Drive East, Seattle.

The following sites discuss varroa mites and bee behaviors, including grooming:

  • USDA
    Excerpt: "We're not the only ones to brush off an annoying mosquito or other buggy pest. Honey bees, when plagued by tiny tracheal mites, will use their legs like a fine-tooth comb to rid themselves of the life-threatening parasites. But, as entomologists with the Agricultural Research Service recently confirmed, some honey bees groom themselves more fastidiously than others."
  • Dave Cushman's bee site
  • Wikipedia page on varroa mites

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education website has information on honeybees and varroa mites, including breeding bees for grooming behavior. Here is an excerpt:
"Bees bred for hygienic behavior are able to detect and physically remove disease-infected brood from the colony before it becomes infectious. Hygienic bees are able to detect and remove diseased brood before the human eye can detect any sign of disease symptoms. When bees remove the disease in the non-infectious stage, it prevents the disease from spreading throughout the colony."

Studies of colony collapse disorder are underway at Washington State University: WSU Research news

What you observed in your garden could actually be a sign of a bee fighting off the mites. The best thing you can do is to grow a wide range of bee-attracting plants in your garden, avoid the use of pesticides, and encourage your neighbors to do the same. Below are links to information on bee gardening:
UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab's Gardening for Bees
Puget Sound Beekeepers Association list of honey bee-friendly plants for the Puget Sound area
University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana
Xerces Society list of Pacific Northwest Plants for Native Bees

Date 2018-06-27
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: bats, Quirky, Attracting wildlife

I have a couple of questions. Are there plants I can grow that will attract bats, and are there plants that are bat-like in appearance?


The organization Bats Northwest recommends providing habitat (such as hollow trees and snags). The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has information on bat houses you can build or purchase. More information can be found at Bat Conservation International.

I did not find specific lists of bat-attracting plants, but providing a diverse tree canopy which includes trees that attract moths (for bats to eat) may make your landscape more bat-friendly. The British Bat Conservation Trust suggests that you leave some wild areas in the garden, add a pond if you can (as a place for bats to drink and forage on insects and their larvae), and plant night-scented flowers. Plant diversity seems to be the key: you can try growing flowers of different shapes, sizes, and fragrances, pale single flowers, and flowers which are good "landing platforms" for insects (such as daisy and carrot family plants).

There are several plants that resemble bats. Here are a few suggestions:

Date 2017-12-09
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Wetlands, Backyard gardens, Attracting wildlife, Ponds and water gardening

Urban gardeners can do their part to conserve natural resources and restore the environment. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service has adapted agricultural practices in a new online publication called Backyard Conservation. Ten "chapters" with detailed instructions show how to build a backyard pond or wetland, how to promote wildlife and how to manage nutrients to prevent pollution of lakes and streams.

Date: 2007-04-03
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Cold protection of plants, Frost, Attracting wildlife, Christmas trees, Recycling (Waste, etc.)

Before you send your Christmas tree away to be chipped for mulch, consider how the tree can be used in your own garden. Cut the branches off the main trunk to place around plants or emerging bulbs that could use extra frost protection. The main trunk could then be used as a stout stake for annual vines planted in the spring. Another idea is to use it as a temporary bird feeding station. Tie on orange slices, suet balls, peanut butter and birdseed smeared pine cones and then stand back and watch the feeding frenzy.

Date: 2005-10-21
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Plant care, Plant diseases--Control, Insect pests--Control, Attracting wildlife

By November Seattle has usually had a good hard frost and most of our herbaceous (non-woody) perennials have either turned to mush or look a bit tattered. Before you give in to the temptation to cut back everything in sight, consider the advice of natural gardening advocates James Van Sweden, author of Gardening with Nature (Random House, 1997) and Jackie Bennett, author of The Wildlife Garden (David & Charles, 1993):

  • Leaving seed heads and dead stems over the winter gives the garden winter interest, especially if we get some snow
  • Seed heads from Black Eyed Susans, Echinacea, Larkspur and Evening primrose provide bird food
  • Beneficial insects hibernate or over-winter as eggs on plant waste
  • Marginally hardy plants like some salvias and lavenders benefit from the little bit of frost protection from the desiccated stems

On the other hand, sanitation is critical if your apples suffered from codling moth or scab or your roses suffered from black spot. Rake up and dispose of every single diseased leaf or infected fruit. Insect and disease organisms also over-winter on plant debris, so if you had a problem this year, start the treatment now with a thorough clean-up.

Date: 2007-03-26
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Attracting wildlife

Turn your garden into a little oasis for wildlife by growing plants that provide food for flying and buzzing creatures. The National Wildlife Foundation has articles on attracting bats, birds, bees, and other wild critters, as well as how to deal with the not-so-welcome.

After you've done your homework and planted wildlife feeding plants you might be ready to declare your yard a Wildlife Sanctuary. For an information package on becoming a backyard wildlife habitat manager send $10.00 to: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary Program, 16018 Mill Creek Blvd, Mill Creek, WA 98012. More information online.

Date: 2007-04-03
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Reviewed by: Rebecca Alexander on 2016-09-09

The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener jacket Here's a book on growing edible crops with a unique perspective, that our vegetable gardens can be planned and designed to encourage or at least coexist peacefully with wildlife. For example, you may not want to share your lettuce with slugs and snails, but you can make the garden hospitable to predators that consume mollusks (such as birds, toads, lizards, foxes, and skunks).

Many of the author's recommendations are common-sense organic approaches to gardening, such as starting with the soil: respect the microorganisms and other soil-dwelling life forms by not over-tilling and disturbing soil structure; observe nature in your garden (keep a journal or sketchbook) and get to know the insects—beneficial and nuisance—and their life cycles, and the other creatures who visit regularly or seasonally.

Design elements in a wildlife-friendly edible landscape include a "perennial backbone" of fruiting trees and shrubs (fruiting ornamentals that will attract birds and other animals and dissuade them from eating the fruit you’ve planted for your own consumption), a water source, and "decoy plants" planted as a border around plants you intend to harvest for yourself. Some of the ideas here require a fair amount of space: not every urban food gardener has room for a hedgerow, or can afford to plant extra (sacrificial!) rows of crops for hungry critters. Still, you may have room for a few ornamental plants that attract pollinators or a few aromatic shrubs and herbs (like curry plant, Helichrysum italicum, or santolina, or lavender) that may discourage browsing by deer and rabbits.

Deer and rabbits are grazers, so they may not wipe out an entire crop in one fell swoop in the way that gorgers (such as raccoons) or hoarders (like squirrels) can. My own garden has become a favorite spot for these creatures, and they do not even wait for fruit to ripen before absconding with it. I was familiar with many of the "scare tactics" and devices the author suggests, but I had not thought of putting rubber snakes around fruit tree branches to intimidate birds, squirrels, and small rodents, or perching fake owls atop poles to ward off nocturnal foragers.

The book concludes with design plans for edible gardens that are aesthetically pleasing, functional, and inviting for humans as well as other living beings.

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