Natural Highlights: A Few Gifts for Wildlife

While planning for the holidays with family and friends, why not remember the wild community outdoors as well?  Here are a few simple gift ideas for wildlife.

Support conservation

The primary driver of wildlife declines is habitat loss. Thus, protecting habitat with a donation to the Wolf River Conservancy, an accredited land trust which has helped to protect about 17,000 acres so far, is among the most important and durable gifts to wildlife that you can provide. Here's a link to our donation page.

Leave the leaves

When it comes to yardwork and wildlife, sometimes less is more.  If you can, when you can, and where you can, leave those fallen leaves on the ground.  Leaf litter is an integral part of a natural forest ecosystem, forming a rich biotic community full of microbes and invertebrates. Leaf litter left to decompose in a corner of your yard or under a shrub can help to support nesting birds looking for insects and worms in the spring.  It also protects and nourishes plants over the winter.  (Suggested links:;

Make windows visible to birds

Birds sometimes fly into glass windows because they see only a reflection of the surrounding landscaping.  The lesson usually costs them their lives, and now collisions with windows are considered one of many causes of declines in bird populations.  There are lots of options for making windows more visible, from simple decals which reflect UV light to specialty glass. (Suggested links:;

Keep a hummingbird feeder up this winter

The hummingbird scientists are very interested in the hummingbird species which occasionally show up here in the south between October and March.  If you happen to see one at your feeder, please email Cyndi Routledge and include a photo if possible: She and her team are trying to band these winter hummers to better understand what they're up to.  

Try some shade-grown coffee

Coffee grown under a canopy of trees preserves forest habitat for birds and other wildlife, but most coffee is not grown this way.  Shade-grown coffee can be found online and locally at specialty stores such as Wild Birds Unlimited.  Coffee makes a nice gift for people, too. (Suggested links:;

Go native

Plants native to our area help support local insects, pollinators, nesting birds, and other wildlife.  Native oaks, wild plum and cherry trees, native berry bushes like blueberries and viburnum, and countless wildflowers and grasses all have a role to play in supporting biodiversity.  Local experts, and print and online resources can help get you started; native plants can be purchased at native plant sales, some local nurseries, or online.  (Suggested links: Bringing Nature Home, Audubon Native Plants). 

Share what you see and hear

App's such as eBird and iNaturalist make it very easy both to keep track of what your observations and to make an important contribution to science.  If birds all look the same to you, try the Merlin app which helps you figure out what you're seeing.  The future of wildlife depends on concerned citizens and scientists working together to keep track of what's happening out there.


Posted by Cathy Justis at 10:58 AM