Sierra Magazine

One Small Step

A yard that’s gone to the birds

"I wanted to bring a little bit of the wild into town. When we moved to Cody sixteen years ago, our yard was a typical suburban bluegrass desert—sterile, except for occasional urban species that have adapted to man’s habitat: starlings, grackles, robins. We spotted only around ten migrating Neotropical songbirds the first year. There was no food, no cover, and no water. Over time I planted our one-third acre with a mixture of native shrubs, trees, and ground cover, creating something like an

ungrazed riparian ecosystem—a jungle, really. This year we saw the one hundred twenty-fifth species of migrating neotrop in our yard. My neighbors think I’m eccentric, but I’ve proven to be fairly harmless. After ten years, one of my neighbors gave me permission to put native plants in the upper quarter of his yard, which joins ours. I’ve spent so much of my life in the wild. Now I just have to walk out the back door and there it is, two blocks from Cody’s main street."

Fowl Facts
Migrating Neotropical birds have declined in North America by nearly 50 percent since the 1960s. One of the main culprits is habitat destruction. Humans can help by protecting wild areas and by adding water, natural food sources, and cover in backyards to create stopover sanctuaries.

Thanks to Karen Mockler for sending us this "One Small Step" idea. Send your ideas about making a difference to "One Small Step," c/o Sierra Writer/Editor Marilyn Berlin Snell, 85 Second St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105, or e-mail See "Editor’s Note" in the "Letters" section for more information.

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