Habitat at Home

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Like birds, butterflies, and other wildlife to visit your garden? Provide the basics of food, water, cover, and nesting places and they’ll flock to your place. Document your progress and certify your backyard as a National Wildlife Federation Backyard Wildlife Habitat. For an application form, contact the NWF at 8925 Leesburg Pike, Vienna VA 22184-0001.

Here’s how to provide the basics for attracting wildlife.   

FOOD:Acorns, nuts, berries, seeds, nectar, and pollen form the wildlife buffet ideal for a backyard habitat. Plants and feeders combine to provide a healthy diet for birds and other wildlife. Start with one good seed tube feeder.

Choose one that’s durable, preferably acrylic. Fill your feeder with mostly black oil sunflower seed. A mix of seed is fine so long as it doesn’t contain grain seeds like milo or millet, and is primarily black oil sunflower. 

Take a look at the roadsides and woods to decide what to plant to attract wildlife to your garden. Native berried shrubs usually have few pest problems and are a natural for feeding the wildlife in your area. Privets and ligustrum, oaks and hollies are widely available for ideal food sources, as are roses and their relatives, the pyracantha. Turn to perennials to entice nectar feeders; be sure to include members of the salvia family.  

WATER: A shallow saucer of water is ample. You can use a flowerpot saucer, a pie pan, or anything that holds water and is no more than 1-3 inches deep. Birdbaths, drips, and misters are great, but whatever you use, keep it and the water clean. If you can add a water feature to the garden, especially one with moving water, so much the better.

COVER: Provide plants to shade the animals and cool them, and give them hiding places, like drooping berried shrubs, under old logs, even in a thicket of dead shrubs you’ve renovated elsewhere in the garden.

NESTING PLACES: Bird houses, nesting shelves, host plants for caterpillars, bat houses, and defense plantings of dense shrubs complete your habitat. Give wildlife a place to nest and enjoy the natural world up close.  

This is the unedited version of an article that appeared in Garden Almanac, a publication of GroGroup.

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