Did You Know? Dead Trees or Snags Support a Plethora of Wildlife!

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This will change your attitude about dead trees in your yard forever.

Dead trees or tree trunks create a snag. That may not sound very attractive to the average homeowner, but it is beneficial to have in your yard for wildlife.

Homeowners usually cut down trees in their yards after they die. This may still be necessary if the tree is too close to their house, garage, or patio, and there is a risk of it damaging property or causing harm to people.

In that case, cutting off the top and leaving a tall stump may be sufficient to save your property from damage and still supply a useful snag for wild birds and other wildlife.

Dead trees may provide wild animals with a home to raise young, food sources, a place to hide from predators, food storage, and shelter from inclement weather.

Who Else Benefits from Dead Trees?

We all know the many wonderful benefits of living trees, but we don’t always consider the advantages of standing dead trees in sustaining wildlife.

Many wild birds will use snags for multiple purposes, and they are not the only creatures that use snags. Many animals and insects make use of them.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, more than 1,000 species of wildlife benefit from dead or downed trees in various stages of decay.

What are the Benefits of Dead Trees or Snags?

Barred owl in a dead tree
  • Natural cavities and slits provide roosting spots for flying squirrels, kestrels, bats, owls, woodpeckers, brown creepers, nuthatches, chickadees, swallows, and other wild critters to spend the night.
  • Most cavity-nesting birds will seek out a hole or make their own in a tree to raise their young, including owl and woodpecker species, nuthatches, chickadees, and flycatchers.
  • Many varieties of bird species use the branches and tops of snags to perch, providing them with a good viewpoint to spot rivals, predators, and food.
  • Rotting trees decay because of the natural processes of fungi, mosses, microscopic organisms, and insects. This, in turn, helps provide nesting material and a good source of bird food for species higher up the food chain.
  • Storage bins for winter food – four legged-animals and birds use snags to store food.

Hardwood trees make better nesting sites, and softwood makes a better food source. Providing both will balance birds’ needs for housing and sustenance.

How to Create a Snag?

You can create snags if no natural ones are available in your area or yard. I would not recommend doing this to a healthy tree. Pick trees showing signs of dying.

To determine the health of a tree in your yard, Davey Tree suggests using your fingernail or a pocket knife to scratch one of the tree’s twigs. If it’s green and moist underneath, your tree is still alive and kicking. If it’s brown and dry, you need to take a few more steps to analyze the tree.

Signs of a dead tree include peeling or cracking bark on the trunk, mushrooms or fungi at the tree’s base, and empty branches at the top of the tree.

Once you’ve found a dead tree, here’s how to create a snag. Don’t take unnecessary risks and leave anything you’re not comfortable doing to the professionals.

  • Cut the top off a tree, leaving, at minimum, fourteen feet standing.
  • Create a jagged top, which will allow rot to develop faster than a smooth top.
  • Cut off long branches, especially near the base of the trunk, to provide a foraging area.
The red-headed woodpecker

Attracting wildlife with dead trees at every stage of the decaying process provides a variety of life-giving benefits to forest wildlife.

Snags also ensure that the next generation of young trees will have the nutrients necessary for life.

Why Not Make Your Dead Tree Attractive?

A snag already has a beneficial purpose, so give it another reason to be saved from the ax!

A tree stump creation can be established as a focal point in your garden. It could be a piece of garden art! You can achieve this in many different ways by letting your ingenuity shine.

To get things started, here is a list of ways other people have found to save their dead trees for birdlife. Please let us know if you come up with a unique idea. We would love to share it here to get people thinking about how to use these precious natural resources.

  1. Use a dead tree to hold a bird feeder.
  2. Turn a stump into a planter.
  3. Make it fun! The birds won’t mind.
  4. Invent a conversation piece.
  5. Snag a tree for the birds!

What is There to Know About Bird Housing?

  • Nesting Habits Vary Greatly Wild birds prepare for and raise their baby birds in many different ways. Some birds are solitary in their method, and others are communal.
  • Other Types of Wild Bird Shelters Providing homes for cavity nesters is a good way to keep birds in your yard for great bird watching.
  • Intriguing Bird House Info It only stands to reason that if you set the table for wild birds with bird feeders, they would choose to nest “down the hall,” so to speak, in a backyard birdhouse.

What Types of Bird Houses are There?

What You Need to Know About Building a Bird Home

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Jacob Swanson

Jacob Swanson is a writer and wildlife photographer born and raised in Wisconsin and currently based in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Since graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, his work has appeared in over a dozen different web and print outlets. In his free time, he’s on a personal quest to visit every U.S. national park and see as many wildlife species as possible. His favorite birds are whooping and sandhill cranes.