Gardening For Wildlife: How To Create A Certified 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.
The Four Essentials of a Backyard Wildlife Habitat Garden:
Food, Shelter, Water and Nesting Sites
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 HabitatClick thumbnail to view full-size
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?
Our Backyard Wildlife Habitat
A tour through a Backyard Wildlife Habitat in North Carolina. Beautiful and serene
The National Wildlife Federation's Guide to Gardening for Wildlife
A Simple Toad Abode
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
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