Written By: Sarah Girton
We are in the middle of our blog series about getting your yard certified by the National Wildlife Federation. This week: Food! If you missed the introductory post from last week, it does have a few links to the NWF site with more information on the Certified Wildlife Habitat program.
Among the most important factors in creating your home-based wildlife habitat are natural sources of food. Happily, this is also one of the easiest criteria to meet. Many Colorado-friendly flowers and plants require very little maintenance, and they are food sources for pollinators and birds alike. Russian sage is a very popular choice here in Colorado, and it thrives in our climate. The bright purple clusters of tiny blossoms are a favorite for bees and butterflies, who will busily hop around the flowers collecting pollen. Another plant that pollinators love is St. John’s Wort. These green bushes with yellow flowers are surprisingly hardy and make a perfect candidate for our beneficial bug friends.
And don’t forget about your hummingbirds! These tiny birds are also very important pollinators. They prefer trumpet shaped blossoms from which they can extract nectar with their long bills. Flowers like Red Yucca, Agastache, and Orange Carpet Trumpet are all great choices, and they have dozens of vivid blossoms that help brighten up your yard.
And if you are looking for more natural ways to feed your songbirds, sunflowers are a great choice. Many small birds will eat the seeds that develop in late summer. Purple coneflower is another frontrunner for the same reason. And many local birds would appreciate a berry bush or other source of sugar-rich fruit! However, providing a continual source of seed at your feeders does count toward the NWF’s criteria, so if you prefer the convenience of feeders, that is perfectly fine!
Of course, no discussion of natural food sources would be complete without bringing up milkweed. Monarchs, who are in severe decline, require milkweed to lay their eggs. Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on this plant, and then pupate on it as well. There are several dozen species, so if you do choose to plant it, make sure you’ve found one that does well in your zone.
This is by no means a complete list of the possible food sources that the NWF suggests, but hopefully it provides some insight and gives you a good idea on how to provide food for your local wildlife! Below: Enjoy this squirrel who is clearly not satisfied with the amount of peanuts he’s been given! 😂