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Gardening For Wildlife: How To Create A Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat

Updated on November 15, 2015
Our Backyard Wildlife Habitat
Our Backyard Wildlife Habitat

My Wildlife Friendly Garden

Creating a backyard wildlife habitat garden designed to attract birds and the local animals into your yard is a fun and rewarding experience, and wildlife friendly gardening can enhance the enjoyment of any yard. Whether you live in the city, on a small suburban lot or in a rural area with loads of land, you can provide all of the basic necessities necessary to invite the local wildlife into your yard. Start small, and expand your backyard wildlife habitat garden over time. Providing for the birds and animals in your yard has a positive impact on wildlife far beyond the boundaries of your property line.

Every backyard wildlife habitat garden includes four essential ingredients: food, water, nesting sites and protection from weather and predators. If your yard already contains a few trees and shrubs, then you are well on your way towards creating a backyard wildlife habitat garden. Adding a bird bath or small pond, a few birdhouses and a couple of bird feeders will encourage even more wildlife to visit your backyard habitat and perhaps take up permanent residence.

Transforming a sterile suburban lawn or a city plot into a backyard wildlife habitat garden and miniature wildlife oasis does not need to be difficult or expensive, and the wildlife gardening process can become a life-long passion. As you modify your surrounding environment to invite the local wildlife, share the joy and knowledge gained with your neighbors. Who knows... maybe they will create their own adjacent backyard wildlife habitat garden, and in turn inspire their neighbors. Every little bit helps.

My Backyard Wildlife Habitat Garden Photos by the Author

The Four Essentials of a Backyard Wildlife Habitat Garden:

Food, Shelter, Water and Nesting Sites

Our gardens combine ornamentals along with native plants
Our gardens combine ornamentals along with native plants


Native birds, animals and insects naturally feed on native plants. If your yard already features a variety of native trees and shrubs, then you are well on your way to creating a backyard wildlife habitat garden. Enhance the natural plantings by adding different types of plants that are native to your area. Local horticultural departments provide great advice on selecting wildlife friendly native plants that cater to the needs of local wildlife (as well as which invasive species to avoid), and garden centers are increasingly carry adding more inventory of native plants that are suitable to your area of the country.

Many common landscape plants provide food and shelter for birds, insects and other animals. Encourage more and different types of wildlife into your yard by adding a selection of perennial and annual flowers, either planted in the ground or in containers, to augment the native plants. Nectar producing blooms will attract hummingbirds, butterflies, honey bees and other beneficial insects. Mix native flowering perennials and shrubs together with ornamental plants such as sunflowers, coneflowers and milkweeds along with herbs including dill and parsley to provide a variety of native critters with food, shelter and places to raise their young.

After the blooms fade, let the last flowers of the summer turn to seed, and birds will feast on the ripen seed pods throughout the fall and winter months.

Planting fruit and berry producing trees and shrubs, such as dogwoods, crabapples and blueberries will increase the variety of available food for both year round residents as well as seasonal and migratory visitors.

Food, water and shelter for the birds
Food, water and shelter for the birds

Add Bird Feeders

Hanging bird seed and suet feeders will supplement the other natural foods that you have planted and enticed into your expanding wildlife habitat.

Fill the feeders with black oil sunflower and thistle seeds to add essential proteins and fats to the diets of visiting birds, especially during the colder months when food sources become scarce.

A few well placed bird houses, suited the birds in your area, provide protected nesting areas to raise their young.

Provide a year-round water source for the locals
Provide a year-round water source for the locals


A small bird bath filled daily with fresh, clean water provides another reason for birds and insects to visit your yard.

A small pond with a waterfall or fountain adds sound and visual appeal, and a permanent water feature will attract frogs and damselflies.

Adding a few aquatic plants creates another micro-environment for insects and pond fish to breed and hide.

Our woodland garden
Our woodland garden


Trees and shrubs provide natural shelters for birds and animals to take shelter from rain, wind and snow while also providing protection from predators. A canopy of leaves offer shade from the hot sun and places to hide.

Dead trees and limbs provide critical habitat for a variety of birds and bugs. Woodpeckers chip away at deadwood in search of insect larva, and hollow out nesting cavities to raise their young. Owls and bluebirds nest old woodpecker holes and natural cavities found in old trees. Even a small brush pile of old branches and limbs creates cover and nesting potential for a variety of birds, bugs and other critters.

If space allows, consider letting a section of your yard to grow naturally. This will encourage native weeds and grasses to take hold, further increasing the diversity of your backyard habitat by attracting more birds and other local inhabitants.

Cheep Rooms For Rent!
Cheep Rooms For Rent!

Nesting Boxes:

Many types of native birds make their nests in hollow tree cavities including chickadees, woodpeckers, owls and bluebirds. As more woodland is lost to urban sprawl, it becomes harder for cavity nesting birds to find suitable sites to safely raise their young. Fortunately, many cavity-nesting birds will readily move into a manmade nest box.

Each species of bird has its own nesting requirements including the size of the nest box, the size of the entrance hole, and the height of the entrance hole above the floor of the nest box. Before buying or building a birdhouse, decide which species of bird already inhabits your yard, and which type you want to attract to your birdhouse.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers a listing of common cavity nesting birds and their preference for nest box dimensions.

This hand-crafted cedar bluebird house is field tested and approved by the National Audubon Society

Audubon Coppertop Cedar Wood Bluebird House Model NACOPBB
Audubon Coppertop Cedar Wood Bluebird House Model NACOPBB

Built to Audubon specifications, this bluebird house features a Coppertop roof, a 1-9/16" entrance hole and is fitted with a predator guard.


Our Backyard Wildlife Habitat

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Certify Your Backyard Habitat
Certify Your Backyard Habitat

Certify Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat

The National Wildlife Federation Certification Program

For over 35 years, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has encouraged homeowners, schools, corporations and municipalities to incorporate the needs of the local wildlife into their landscape design.

So far, the NWF has recognized the efforts of nearly 140,000 individuals and organizations who plant native shrubs and plants for food, cover and places for raising their young, provide include a source of drinking water, and add nesting boxes for cavity nesting birds.

Please visit the NWF website for additional information on their official Certified Wildlife Habitat program


Have You Certified Your Backyard Habitat?

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Our Backyard Wildlife Habitat

A tour through a Backyard Wildlife Habitat in North Carolina. Beautiful and serene

A Simple Toad Abode

Flower Pot Toad House
Flower Pot Toad House

How To Make A Toad House

Quick and easy, this toad house is made from an inexpensive terracotta flowerpot and boasts a naturally aging mossy patina.

A light hammer strike against the rim of the flowerpot produced the chipped opening. The terracotta is both tough and brittle, and is difficult to break cleanly. Try to break out a semi-circular opening about 2 inches across, though the size and shape is not critical.

The roof of the toad abode is the moss-filled saucer, placed on top of the inverted flowerpot. Fill the saucer with potting mix, and press pieces of moss into the soil. Keep the moss moist until it takes root in the soil.

Place the finished toad house in a shady area of the garden, near groups of perennials or near the base of a small shrub. Bury the rim into the soil to stabilize the pot

Build A Wildlife Feeder for Your Backyard Habitat

Deer Feeder Box in Winter
Deer Feeder Box in Winter

Build a Deer and Wildlife Feeder

Build this wildlife feeder to attract deer, turkeys and other animals into your yard. This feeder box is quick and easy to make from a 1 x 12 pine or cedar board, which is readily available at any home center or lumberyard. Just one pine board, 6 feet long, provides enough material to make this project.

The wildlife feeder is basically a box with a slanted front panel to create a bin for storing the food, and with a lower tray to hold cracked corn for feeding. A removable lid makes it easy to fill the feed box with cracked corn or a wildlife specialty feed mix.

The Cutting List

Things You Need:

  • 1 x 12 pine or cedar board
  • Basic Woodworking Tools
  • Weather-resistant Screws or Nails

Cut the board into the following parts:

  • Part A (sides) - 18" long by 8" wide (quantity of two needed)
  • Part B (back) - 18" long by 7 " wide
  • Part C (slanted front) - 17" long by 7 " wide
  • Part D (bottom) - 7 long by 7 " wide
  • Part E (lid) - 10" long by 10 " wide
  • Part F (tray front) - 9" long by 2 " wide

Deer Feeder Plans

Our Woodland garden
Our Woodland garden

Tell Us About Your Wildlife Friendly Garden

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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      We are right on the lake with so many trees around so birds surround us. Just a symphony of bird songs.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Great lens, love those toad houses! Saw your lens featured on Editor for the Day: Bakerwoman Shows Us Some Great Garden Wildlife Habitat Lenses

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      This is great to think about a way to provide for every aspect of the well being of the wildlife in one's area.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 4 years ago from Central Florida

      A friend transformed her yard with planting that birds would like. Really a labor of love.

    • Srena44 profile image

      Srena44 5 years ago

      great lens

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 5 years ago

      Love all your yard and bird house lenses...thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      This is the perfect time of year to create backyard habitats that can be enjoyed by wildlife and us all year around!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      Just stopping by once more to relax in your wonderful natural backyard habitat. Love it.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      I love this lens. I have always been fascinated by the concept of the certified backyard habitats and am working towards that. Add bees if you are hardcore. Squid Angel Blessed.

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 5 years ago

      Lots of helpful ideas here. Thanks! I enjoyed seeing the photos of your backyard wildlife habitat. Remind me that I'd better get that birdhouse put up that I got a while ago.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I was in the neighborhood and just had to take another look at your backyard wildlife habitat pictures and see you added a poll about certifying your backyard habitat, that's a concept that you have introduced me to.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      I do so wish that my city were as kind as yours. Ours used to be fine but now they have done a complete reversal on urban wildlife it seems. Communities throughout B.C. are doing urban deer kills and it is heartbreaking. I am so glad that you are allowed in your community to live in harmony with the local wildlife.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Really great site. Interesting steps to get a plan together. Enjoyed it, thanks.

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 6 years ago from Connecticut

      @mrducksmrnot: If every property owner just did a little bit to help the local wildlife in their area, , the combined efforts would create an extended backyard wildlife habitat for all. Thanks for visiting!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Now featured on my Back Yard Nature Coloring Pages, thank you!

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 6 years ago from New Zealand

      Great lens, love it, I am a lover of wild life in my garden also. Like the toad idea, must try that one.

    • profile image

      mrducksmrnot 6 years ago

      A wonderful and informative lens for sure. I especially like you reference to the National Wildlife Federation. If folks incorporate your ideas and do them then maybe future generations will be able to see a lot of wildlife and creatures they would have never seen due to the population crowding them out from their natural environment. WELL DONE.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      You sure are encouraging that everyone with a yard can create a wildlife habitat and maybe even encourage neighbors in town by example to start creating one in their own yard. I love your idea of letting part of your yard be wild to add to the habitat opportunities and suggest the use of a brush pile to encourage critters to make your yard their home. You, by the way, live in an amazing area and have worked so well with your natural landscape to created a haven for yourself and the invited wildlife.

    • profile image

      Donnette Davis 6 years ago from South Africa


    • profile image

      Home-Business-Marketer 6 years ago

      Great Lens! Very Interesting!