Attracting Wildlife in California

Any number of books are available about bird-gardening, wild-bird feeding, nest-box construction etc. and more recently, books about attracting butterflies and various other sorts of “desirable” wildlife.  However, with very few exceptions, they all deal entirely or mainly with the eastern half of the country.

If you see a picture of a snowy landscape with a feeder bedecked with cardinals, bluejays, evening grosbeaks, tufted titmice, black-capped chickadees, and slate-colored juncos, find a different book, or move to Connecticut.  There is some value to these books, of course, since many eastern birds also occur in California, or at least have related species or ecological counterparts here; but almost invariably, the lists of trees and shrubs these eastern-oriented books recommend for attracting birds or butterflies are next to worthless for most of California.  On the other hand, most of the choicest, most attractive, fool-proof wildlife plants for California gardeners are completely left out.  Even such lists purporting to be geared for the west coast very often leave out the best choices and include lots of marginal or near-worthless wildlife-attracting plants; much of this is the product of a politically-correct “natives-only” bias [see p. – for a discussion of the “native vs. exotic” issue.]

Even within our own state, there are differences enough in climate, flora, and fauna to qualify as half a dozen separate states, if not countries.  The three major divisions, of course, are the mild “cismontane” lowlands (the regions covered by this book); the cold, forested high mountains including the Sierras, Cascades, Siskiyou/Klamath Range, the high North Coast ranges, and the Peninsular and other ranges of Southern California; and the low deserts (Sonoran?, Colorado, and Mohave) of Southeastern California and the colder, higher Great Basin desert east of the Sierras and Cascades.

Even within the most distinctively “Californian” part of California, i.e. the cismontane lowlands, there is a multitude of ecological subdivisions; these will be discussed separately . . .

None of these three major ecological provinces within California has a climate or a flora and fauna matching that of the eastern half of the country covered by most bird-gardening books.

The intent of this book is to fill the gap . . . and attempt to provide a clear, systematic set of time-tested, personally verified courses of action for each of the major ecological regions within the heavily populated cismontane lowlands.

. . . clear up a welter of published info . . ., simplify, get specific, separate the wheat from the chaff