Create Your Own Backyard Wildlife Habitats
Most people enjoy watching the wildlife in their area but don't realize that they can make their own personal space more inviting and environmentally friendly. The idea of a wildlife habitat conjures images of a reserve or nature park, large swaths of land given over to the animals. While this is true and these types of places are wonderful, any locale can become a wildlife habitat, even your own backyard.
Anyone can create these habitats, no matter the size of your area, from a two acre yard to a small balcony in the city.
The National Wildlife Federation runs a program for certifying backyard wildlife habitats. Anyone who meets the requirements can apply for a certificate. Even if you don't want to host a certified habitat you can use their guidelines as a base for getting started in your yard or porch.
Check out their site for all of the details and a little inspiration: https://www.nwf.org/Garden-for-Wildlife/Create
Backyard wildlife habitats are extremely important to a happy and healthy environment. With the increasing amount of land being take up for homes, businesses and roads, animals and plants are increasingly losing their natural habitats. Creating backyard safe places helps offset the lost territory. Backyard wildlife habitats can provide a home for displaced wildlife, a natural place for plant growth, and can offset the damaging aspects of cities, such as rainwater runoff.
There are five basic requirements to think of when creating a backyard wildlife habitat: Food, Water, Cover, Places to Raise Young, and Sustainable Practices.
All of these need to be in place for a successful wildlife habitat. Adding features to your outdoor areas that address these concerns will help attract wildlife to your home.
Food is the first source that you need to provide for the wildlife. This can come in many forms, from a bird feeder on up. The best type of food source is to grow native plants that provide food for animals, birds and bugs. Every area will have a variety of native plants that grow berries, flowers, etc. for wildlife to eat from. If you can grow a couple different food providing plants, you will be able to help along new generations of wildlife. If you can't grow plants at the moment, you can provide pre-made food. There are tons of bird feeders on the market that are perfect for providing food year round. Look into the types of animals that are local to your area and see what birdseed, etc. that they enjoy eating. Then provide it to them on a regular basis.
Water is also incredibly important to providing a safe place for wildlife. The simplest way to provide water is to have a birdbath or water dispenser. This can be done in a number of ways, from a simple pedestal birdbath to a container pond. There are hanging water dispensers that can also be deployed. Ideally, you will have the room to create a water source, such as an in-ground pond with water plants. Container ponds are great for areas that don't have enough area for an in-ground pond. You can also create swampy area or a rain garden in your yard. If you have only a small space or a balcony, try providing a shallow dish of water for butterflies or a small birdbath.
Cover is essential to allowing wildlife to feel and be safe in your yard. This can be provided in the form of thick bushes, ponds, piles of rocks, or even simply bird houses. If you have the room, try providing areas of dead wood and bramble for your local wildlife. Leaving up a dead tree or allowing tall grass to grow in one area can be perfect. If you have a small area, provide a birdhouse or two. Make sure to pick birdhouses that meet your native wildlifes requirements. You can also provide bug boxes, toad houses, and a number of very small but useful hiding places.
Places to raise young are required if you want to see multiple generations of wildlife in your yard. Most of these places can double as cover as well. Bird houses, thick bushes, ponds, etc. all allow wildlife to safely raise their young and create a new generation.
Finally, sustainable practices are the basis for creating a healthy and environmentally friendly habitat. You should be aiming to be as sustainable as possible with whatever outdoor area you have. This can start with a simple compost pile or compost machine. These can be as large as a compost pile in your backyard or as small as a compost container that fits under your sink. Catching and reusing rain water, using natural weed prevention methods instead of pesticides, laying down mulch, and growing only native plants are other ways to become sustainable.
Each of these categories are required to create a backyard wildlife habitat. For a space to qualify as an official wildlife habitat it must be submitted to and approved by The National Wildlife Federation. This requires three or more food sources, one or more water sources, two or more places of cover, two or more places to raise young, and two or more sustainable practices. Though certification requires all of these things, even implementing one aspect in your outdoor location will be helpful. Whether you can create a full wildlife habitat in your expansive yard or you can simply provide a couple of potted plants and a bird feeder on your balcony, any and all steps you take will help the local wildlife of your area live healthy lives. And you'll be able to watch them from the comfort of your own home!