Here are some simple ways you can make your backyard a natural habitat for wildlife. You will love having the opportunity to have nature come to you in your very own backyard. Involve your whole family in the project and spend some time outdoors!
When we first moved into our house over twenty years ago, the backyard was fairly generic. It had a big weedy lawn, a pine tree, a few fruit trees, blackberries along the fence, and some bushes in the back. The front yard had a magnolia tree and some lawn. Not really very inviting to either humans or animals. It was not a very big yard either and we did not have a lot of money to do big landscape projects at that time.
We didn’t set out to create a natural habitat for wildlife in our yard, but it has turned out that way with some simple ideas in mind. Working on one small area at a time we managed to eventually build up what we have now.
How to Get Started Making Your Backyard a Natural Habitat for Wildlife
Animals and Birds need some basic things in order to consider your backyard an attractive habitat.
- Somewhere to have their young
Food Sources for Your Backyard
Here are some ideas for food sources for wildlife:
- Wild sources of food in your backyard like blackberries and grasses that produce seeds.
- You can plant a variety of things to help provide food as well.
- We have a fig tree, a walnut tree, sunflowers every summer, and flowers whose nectar is attractive to birds and insects like trumpet vine and butterfly bush.
- A trumpet vine is a favorite of the hummingbirds when it is in bloom. There will three or four all sipping nectar on various sides of the trellis and they are amazing to watch. We also have several types of bird feeders in our yard at varying levels.
- Platform feeders, hopper feeders, hummingbird feeders, and special finch feeders are filled all year round. We have a suet feeder that we add in the winter.
- We also have a butterfly/hummingbird garden established with quite a few plants that are attractive to various kinds of butterflies.
- We have seen Tiger swallowtails already this year and we are hoping to start attracting some Monarchs with the milkweed that we have started in a patch near the back of the garden.
- We also know that a variety of mammals eat the seed under the feeders. We have seen skunks, voles, and moles. We have seen evidence of other rodents but can’t be sure exactly what else is out there at night.
Water Sources for Your Backyard Nature Study
A water source is essential in attracting wildlife to your backyard natural habitat.
- We have two bird baths that are available for the birds year round. We also have noticed the birds perched on the potted plants getting water from the base. The birds also enjoy the rainbird sprinklers when they are on and we frequently see blackbirds shaking around in the spray.
- We have seen little raccoon footprints around the bird bath as well. We know we have at least one raccoon because we have seen him up on our deck at night looking in the back window. Too cute.
Shelter for Wildlife
Here are some ideas for shelter for wildlife in your backyard natural habitat:
- We have not been successful with having birds nest in our birdhouse, but we have had several birds over the years make nests in our magnolia and sequoia trees.
- There are also birds that nest in the eave of our neighbors garage right along the fence line. They fly in and out and use our feeders. Believe it or not, the birds fly into the space under the beam. If you click the photo you can see where they go in and out.
- We have three large areas where we have shrubs for the birds to hide in. These photinia bushes behind the garden provide a great spot for the finches and little birds to perch as they wait their turn at the feeders.
- These areas are near the feeders and the bird baths and the birds seem to like having the option to fly into the shrub and then check the feeder out before perching to eat a meal. The bushes come alive in the winter when the weather is wet because so many birds take shelter there out of the weather.
- The back oak tree has bats from time to time and if we come out at night we can see them flying around the backyard eating insects midair.
- We have a section of our yard that has big river rocks and this is where you will find a variety of insects living underneath and also a shelter for the reptiles in our yard. Yes, we have a couple types of lizards and other reptiles in our yard and the boys love it.
- The grape vines which we planted last year are providing another spot for the birds to perch plus the added bonus of some seedless grapes for us at the end of the season.
- Another great place that we know we have provided shelter is within our compost pile. This really could go under the category of food as well since we know that birds and other small creatures forage in the compost for meals.
Natural Habitat: Provide a Place to Raise Young
The trees in our yard are a great place for birds to raise their babies. We just had “flying school” for the Scrub jays in our yard for the babies. They have all flown out on their own now and it was fun to watch. The hummingbirds are all up in a pine tree and a cedar tree that borders the back of our property and although we have never seen them, we know they nest and raise babies there.
We do have our limits thought….the six foot fence all the way around was in response to the mule deer that would come in and devastate a whole vegetable garden in one night. We knew we would be forcing them to go elsewhere for a meal but we live fairly close to a riparian habitat that they can graze and get water from. They still make themselves at home in our unfenced front yard and I hear them on hot summer nights snacking on my roses. I guess they must be hungry. The photo above shows where on the side of the house outside the fenced in area, the deer are still taking shelter here and sleeping. You can see where the grasses and plants are all flattened down from where they lay down and rest.
Last year we had a family of skunks move in under the back deck. I had the boys fill up the crevice with rocks as soon as they moved out. As much as I love wildlife, having a skunk family that near to our house was not pleasant…you can only imagine.
So there are some ideas to get you started with your backyard natural habitat. Take it one section and one idea at a time and soon you will have your own nature study laboratory right outside your back door. It has taken us over twenty years to build up the different aspects but it has been a labor of love. We are continually adding little things to help make the backyard beautiful and also attractive to birds and other animals.
You might be interested in what the National Wildlife Federation says about building a backyard natural habitat.
Create A Wildlife Habitat
You will also like these ideas for Creating Your Backyard Homeschool Nature Study Laboratory.
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written by Barb June 2009, updated by Tricia February 2022