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To insure that you are making wise management decisions on your property it is highly advisable to meet with your Private Lands Biologist, to discuss your short and long term management objectives, and assess your resource.
General wildlife habitat advice:
Planting Native Grasses and Forbs
Although known to be especially beneficial to species of song birds and game birds, many of Iowa's birds, mammals, reptiles and insects require grasslands at some point in their life cycle. In general, wildlife prefers open grasslands with a high concentration of forbs, especially legumes. Forbs and legumes produce seeds and high protein forage providing a food source. These open grasslands provide loafing, foraging, dusting and brood rearing cover. Dense grass stands can provide escape cover from predators. Rather than being flattened by snow cover, warm season grasses tend to bow over (forming tunnels) and return to an erect stature with snow melt. Two-thirds of a native prairie plants' biomass is located in its root system. This extensive network, sometimes more than 12 feet long, provides excellent soil stability, organic matter/nutrient build-up, and mineral translocation.
A high-diversity seed mix will most closely replicate historical vegetation and provide needed diversity for wildlife habitat. A seed mix should include a variety of grasses, sedges, legumes, and forbs (wildflowers). A diverse planting will provide a variety of food and cover, attracting a large number of different wildlife species. Species selected should only be those that were historically found in the area. Use caution not to include cultivar (flower garden) varieties of native prairie species. Avoid using seed nurseries "prairie-in-a-can" standard mixes which can contain species or hybrids that were not historically native to this area.
Iowa DNR Prairie Seeding Guidelines
Establishing Native Plants
The Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) commonly referred to as a Bobwhite Quail is a species that was once very plentiful in the southern half of Iowa. Unfortunately, populations of the species have seen a dramatic decrease in Iowa and across its entire range in the United States since the 1960's. The reason for this decline is mainly a result of land use changes over that same time period. Agricultural fields have gotten increasingly larger, plum and hedge filled fence rows have become scarce, and the weedy crop fields of the past have been replaced by weed free fields that are sprayed with herbicide annually. On the other hand this does not mean that southern Iowa landowners cannot have quail on their land if they perform the proper management. By providing the proper amount of habitat, landowners can have quail on their land and if they control enough acres or work with their neighbors in a large area quail populations could be significant. This habitat management should be centered on providing early successional weedy cover along with shrubby cover that is adjacent to cropland. Contact your local DNR private lands program representative to schedule a free one on one site visit and develop a quail management plan today!
University of Missouri Extension, Conservation Publications
Nesting Structures/Bird Houses
For thousands of years, waterfowl, songbirds, raptors and all other wildlife species survived and reproduced in the natural habitats of North America without human assistance. However, with the arrival of the first European settlers, those natural habitats began to change. Millions of acres of wetlands, prairie, and forest were altered for human use, leaving wildlife to survive on a small fraction of the habitat that once supported their ancestors in sky-darkening numbers.
To help wildlife populations maintain themselves under these altered conditions, wildlife biologists have developed various techniques to improve habitat and increase nest success. The use of artificial nest structures for the production of some waterfowl, songbird, and raptor species is one of these techniques.
It is important to realize that nest structures will not solve all the problems facing wildlife today. Nest structures only improve nest success for the few species that use them. The real problem facing our wildlife populations is the continued loss of their natural wetland, grassland, and woodland habitats. This trend will only be reversed by sound land stewardship practices that address wildlife habitat requirements as well as human needs.