Identifying Wildlife in Your Landscape

May 26, 2016

By: Jennifer Davit 

One of the great benefits of growing native plants is observing the huge diversity of wildlife they support. Last week, I was inventorying the plants on a property that Ohio Prairie Nursery has been managing for bobolink  habitat, which is a unique grassland bird whose population numbers have been declining. Since I am relatively new to Northeast Ohio and the Ohio Prairie Nursery team, I had never seen a bobolink in the wild before. I researched them prior to beginning site visits and was thrilled to first hear their call and then spot several in flying above the native grasslands that we had seeded. This sighting was particularly meaningful for several reasons. The boblink was a new species I added to my life list, but more importantly the identification of several breeding males indicates that Ohio Prairie Nursery's efforts to provide habitat for this species have been successful! Most of us want to identify the variety of birds, insects and other wildlife that make our native landscapes their homes - and there are some great online resources to help you do just that. Hopefully some of the tools below can help you find enjoyment in identifying wildife species at your home or in a nearby natural area.

You might start to see some caterpillars on your plants and be curious about what butterflies they will become. This online tool at Discover Life has been one of the most helpful for me. It allows you to search by several different characteristics and then once the search is narrowed, identifying the species based on the images is fairly easy. This is a similar guide for butterflies and if they stay still long enough for you to get a good look, can be a great tool.

Identifying birds relies on the observation of 4 different characteristics: size and shape, color pattern, behavior and habitat. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a great website to help you learn how to observe and identify birds. Their bird guide is something I use on a regular basis to help narrow down a recent observation. I also have a younf son who loves watching the different bird videos and listening to different birdcalls on this website. It has been a great tool to encourage him to observe and identify birds. There are a number of useful apps you can download for your mobile phones and this article is a great analysis of the variety of apps on the market.

In addition to these digital tools, carrying around a laminated identification guide is always helpful in the field . Many of your local nature centers. natural history museums and even garden centers will carry these handy tools.

We hope you enjoy observing all the visitors to your native habitat as much as we do. Feel free to share your observations with us on our our Facebook page.

Prairie On!