by Linda Hiller
T here’s a big Colorado blue spruce on the Jacks Valley route I walk daily with my old dog, Linus, and without fail there are always birds in and around this tree.
A collection of California quail roost in it at night and feed under it during the day. They scatter in loud, whooshing bursts every time we speed-walk by. I suspect birdseed is sometimes scattered underneath the tree, but have never seen any evidence of this ” only the tremendous and consistent bird activity there.
As it turns out, the spruce is considered a top tree to plant for wildlife by many experts.
Dink Getty, owner of Genoa Trees, recommends it to customers all the time.
“The spruce really is the best tree for quail,” he said. “For some reason, they like the spruce trees more than pines or other conifers.”
Since he specializes in trees, Getty also recommends a few other trees that provide excellent food for birds that do well here ” Washington Hawthorne, Canada red chokecherry and Mayday (Prunus padus). He also says planting trees in a belt will give wildlife more protection.
“Don’t leave big spaces between trees,” Getty said. “Plant them so the birds have a path they can safely follow.”
Norma Jean Chaney, who works at Carson Valley Garden and Ranch Center in Gardnerville and has been tending to backyard birds all her life, recommends the mountain ash tree for birds. It produces clusters of orange berries that many birds, including American robins, Townsend’s solitaires and cedar waxwings, will flock to.
What is your habitat? Planting for wildlife also starts with a consideration of where you live and your surrounding natural habitat ” do you live in the foothills, the Valley floor, near the river?
Many Carson Valley homeonwers maintian bird feeders and find thistle and black oil sunflower seeds are popular with native birds here. A suet cake in the winter, nectar feeder in the spring and summer, plus a ground scattering of chicken scratch mixed with wild bird seed will round out your feeding stations.
Domestic pets can often keep wildlife away, so remember to keep them under control for the sake of the wildlife and also for the health of your pets. Remember, small dogs and cats and livestock are vulnerable to owls, some large raptors and big ground predators like coyotes and cougars, so it’s best to keep your pets under control and always in at night.
And finally, after you’ve planted your blue spruces, trees with fruit, bushes with berries and flowers with nectar, get a good field guide and start identifying your yard birds. We have easily 40 species of birds that frequent our yard. And if you meet the requirements, you can apply to have your yard certified as a Backyard Bird Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation, visit http://www.nwf.org/backyardwildlifehabitat/ for details.