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Easy Steps to Creating a Certified Wildlife Habitat

Updated on December 11, 2012
grandmapearl profile image

Connie knows how very important natural habitats are to our bird populations. That's why she loves bird-friendly flowers, shrubs and trees.

My Mom's backyard full of different kinds of trees and a large lawn.
My Mom's backyard full of different kinds of trees and a large lawn. | Source
  • What does it take to make a certified wildlife habitat?
  • Do you need a large yard?
  • Are lots of trees a necessity?
  • I don't have a yard, can I still make this work?
  • How do I obtain certification?
  • What's the benefit?



One of the best gifts I ever gave my Mom, as it turns out, was to have her property certified as a wildlife habitat. She was so proud of her park-like backyard, which attracted deer, rabbits, foxes, coy dogs, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, pheasants, wild turkeys, grouse, quail, bob-o-links, and all kinds of songbirds.

One side of her property sported a 10-foot deep hedgerow; the back of her yard was edged by a boggy swamp; there was a stand of aspens and a huge bramble field filled with blackcaps, wild raspberries, choke cherries and wild blackberries. Her whole backyard was planted with rows of evergreens and hardwoods like maples and Russian olives. It was a veritable wildlife haven!

A natural spring with a tiny pool interrupted the hedgerow to provide a cool drink of clear water for the deer and other wildlife, as they paused to quench their thirst. That spring stayed active in all kinds of weather, even in the coldest winters.

I had seen something about the National Wildlife Backyard Habitat Certification program and decided to investigate further. Knowing all the essential elements were present in my mother's rural backyard, I was confident it would be no problem to obtain this special acknowledgement for her.

Three to four hours was the time it took for her to finish mowing all the grassy areas, which included my Dad's old go cart track that had become overgrown. There was enough gravel still present on that track to make the best nesting areas for the killdeer that raised their young every year.

My Mom also had bird baths that she filled every day with clean water, and song bird feeders she could enjoy. Hummingbirds buzzed in and out of her snowball and Rose of Sharon bushes. Across the dirt road was a huge overgrown pasture full of wildflowers and weeds. The butterflies were a delightful sight every summer, along with the plentiful fireflies. There were lots of dragonflies and damselflies as well because of the swamp at the back of the property. The tree and swamp toads along with the crickets sang us all to sleep each summer night!

For a long time we picked wild strawberries from the side yard next to the hedgerow. I can still remember picking enough of those tiny berries for dessert once a week in the warmer months. It was labor intensive and made for red-stained fingers, but boy was it worth it! We always wore regular sneakers instead of sandals because of the garter snakes that loved that strawberry patch as well.

Yes, my Mom had all the ingredients for a certified wildlife habitat. Her framed certificate was hung proudly right near the front door for all to see as they came to visit. It was the best gift she ever received, and I was very happy to have been able to give it to her.

My Mom's Yard

Click thumbnail to view full-size
killdeer pretending to have a broken wing--they are famous for this trick as are many other birds!A view of the extensive hedgerow that ends at the swamp at the back of the property.My Mom's backyard, taken from the back edge of the lawn looking toward her house.This is the west side of the backyard.  She and my Dad planted all these trees when we were young.The east side of my Mom's yard.  She made that picnic table herself.
killdeer pretending to have a broken wing--they are famous for this trick as are many other birds!
killdeer pretending to have a broken wing--they are famous for this trick as are many other birds! | Source
A view of the extensive hedgerow that ends at the swamp at the back of the property.
A view of the extensive hedgerow that ends at the swamp at the back of the property. | Source
My Mom's backyard, taken from the back edge of the lawn looking toward her house.
My Mom's backyard, taken from the back edge of the lawn looking toward her house. | Source
This is the west side of the backyard.  She and my Dad planted all these trees when we were young.
This is the west side of the backyard. She and my Dad planted all these trees when we were young. | Source
The east side of my Mom's yard.  She made that picnic table herself.
The east side of my Mom's yard. She made that picnic table herself. | Source

What Do I Have to Do to Create a Wildlife Habitat?

According to the National Wildlife Backyard Habitat Certification Program, here are the requirements:

1. provide food

2. supply water

3. create cover

4. give wildlife a place to raise their young

5. receive a certificate and become a part of the NWF certified wildlife habitat program


Food Sources

Provide any 3 from the following:

  1. Seeds, nuts, pollen, sap, nectar, fruits, twigs, foliage, berries from trees or plants
  2. Suet, bird feeder, hummingbird nectar feeder, squirrel feeder, butterfly feeder

So you see, even if you don't have any trees at all, you can still qualify by providing supplemental feeders for the wildlife in your yard.

Water Sources

Use any 1 or more to qualify for the water requirement:

1. Natural spring, stream, creek, pool, pond, lake, river, ocean

2. Rain garden, water garden, butterfly puddling area, birdbath or fountain

Shelter & Protect Your Wildlife

Give your wildlife 2 or more of the following to help provide protection from bad weather and any predators:


  1. Prairie, meadow, shrubs, woods, hedgerow, thicket, evergreens, bramble patch
  2. Roosting box, birdhouse or nest box, brush pile, cave, rock wall or rock pile, water garden, pond

Wildlife Needs Places to Raise Their Babies

Provide 2 or more places for mating, nesting and raising their young:

  1. Nesting box or birdhouse, host plants for caterpillars, dense thickets and shrubs, water garden or pond
  2. Meadow, prairie, wetland, dead trees, burrow, cave, large live trees either deciduous or non-deciduous


As you can see, your yard does not have to be huge or situated within a deep forest in order to be a certified habitat.

Submit Your Property to Be Certified

The last step in the process is to take pictures of your yard, preferably with a member of your family in the images. Make sure you show the NWF that you have fulfilled all their requirements.

Then go to nwf.org/create a habitat, and follow their guide for certification. After they have reviewed your materials to determine that all their requirements have been fulfilled, you will receive your official certificate.

Do You Think You Will Submit Your Property to Be a Certified Wildlife Habitat?

See results

The Benefits

Participating in this program will provide you with a deep sense of accomplishment in helping all the wildlife in your area. Your efforts will be far reaching, as they will affect generations of birds and animals for a long time to come.

Please remember that you should not use toxic chemicals on your yard or gardens. Not only are they deadly to all the wild animals, birds and beneficial insects, but they pollute the very water supply we all rely upon. Opt for non-toxic organic controls. Or better yet, let nature take care of the bugs and weeds. After all, that's what they do, and they are very good at it if we just let them do their thing!

Comments

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    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      sgbrown, that would be awesome! I am sure you would qualify. My Mom was so proud of her certificate that she framed it and hung it at the front door for all to see!

      I'm glad we share a love of wildlife, and the knowledge that whatever we can do to help is very important. Thanks for your wonderful comments and for the votes. They are very much appreciated.

      Here's to you and your new Certified Wildlife Habitat Certificate!

      Pearl

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 

      5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      This is very interesting! My place here in the country would definitely qualify. I think I will send in for this. It would just be nice to know that I was a member and maybe I can do something more to help the wildlife here. Wonderful hub! Voting up and awesome! :)

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Hi Irish! So glad you enjoyed this article. My Mom was so proud of that certificate. She was always fond of the deer that roamed around her backyard, as well as the wild turkeys. She wasn't all that happy about the rabbits because they would eat her peony trees! Thanks for stopping by and your supportive comments. I hope you had a good Christmas.

      Pearl

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      5 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Wow - I am thoroughly impressed and never knew you could do this. Great write and very interesting.

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Thanks Nell! I like that 'the fat animal house'. Must have been like my house--I came in here skinny, now not so much!! Just kidding. Thanks for the great comment and the support. Always great to see you.

      Pearl

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      5 years ago from England

      What a fantastic idea! I don't think we can do this over here in England though, but it would be great! my brother and aunts old house was good, it would have been totally suitable, we used to call it the fat animal house! lol! the animals came in skinny, but by the time they had eaten all the food, drunk all the water and just was completely pampered they were totally fat! great hub! nell

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      6 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Sweet Eddy, thanks so much for your kind words. I am so glad you enjoyed this one. I was thinking of you as I wrote it. My parents and grandparents were wonderful mentors when it came to wildlife and birds. You and I share that same love of everything connected to the Earth. It's always wonderful to have you stop by. Your comments are truly appreciated; and thank you for all the votes and for sharing. Enjoy your day!

      Pearl

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      6 years ago from Wales

      You knew that I was going to enjoy this gem I am sure Pearl. As well as voting up/across and sharing I also have to save as one of my favourites. Keep them coming and I also treasure our friendship.

      Have a great weekend.

      Eddy.

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      6 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Good for you Dolores! I love watching my birds right here at home as well. If you have a lot of birds visiting, then you have provided the requirements they need. I'm so glad to share my love of birds with a fellow bird watcher! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      6 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Although we are not in any way a certified wildlife habitat, I have noticed that, after so many years living here, a big increase in the types of birds that we see in our yard. I went crazy when we moved in planting trees, shrubs, and native flowers. My favorite place to bird watch is on my own back porch!

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      6 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Hi Deb, thanks so much for your great comments and the vote. My hope is that a lot of people will decide to help wildlife in this easy way, and feel pride in doing so. Any habitat we can give back to nature can only benefit all of us. I know that we share a love for birds and wildlife; and we also share concern for their well-being. I always enjoy your visits and appreciate your support.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Awesome and up. It doesn't get any better for wildlife or an animal lover than this.

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      6 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Excellent Billy! The more habitat we can re-introduce to our wildlife the better! I'm very glad you are thinking about this. It is certainly a very worthwhile endeavor. Pearl

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well how very interesting! I had no idea you could have your property certified. This is really cool, Pearl! Thanks for the info; now you have me planning for spring. LOL

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