• Creating a backyard wildlife habitat

    by  •  • Gardening tips, Nature •  Comments


    What is a backyard wildlife habitat?

    A Backyard Habitat is a transformation of your garden into a place that provides the things wildlife need to live there. You also ‘reduce the civilization’ there to make it more welcome and safe for small, beautiful creatures. My mother did this in 1970 in the suburbs of Los Angeles and I have established a wildlife habitat now that we live here in the country in the Sierra Foothills of California.

    Provide the four requirements and apply online and quickly get your own Backyard Habitat sign for your garden!

    Backyard Habitat sign

    Backyard Habitat sign

    Here’s how:

    Food, water, shelter and safety….that’s all!

    Swallowtail swooping down, see how it matches the blue of the buddleia?

    Swallowtail swooping down, see how it matches the blue of the buddleia?

    What I mean by applying for a Certified Wildlife Habitat, I guess, is that I will vow to be a steward of this land while I’m living here on our land in the Sierra foothills.  If you look into which plants were in your area before it was civilized, so o speak, the native birds, butterflies and bees will soon return to you.   They just need familiar plants to lie near,…to use for a ‘host’ plant and feed from through their life cycle.

    Make an easy birdbath

    Make an easy birdbath

    The National Wildlife Federation certification program can easily be followed to make a sustainable habitat for the wildlife in your area. But why?

    Why create a backyard habitat?

    Whether it’s an apartment balcony or a 20 acre property, it’s fascinating, and joyful, to be able to watch the birds and insects thrive in your garden. Provide food, water and shelter as well as reduce the amount of chemicals you use in the garden, then just wait and watch!

    Western Scrub-Jay  feeding from an old goat shed feeder tray.

    Western Scrub-Jay feeding from an old goat shed feeder tray.

    These are the things to provide in your new backyard habitat:


    Preserve and plant more California natives. They have the pollen, berries and foliage the birds and insects like. Some plants for a habitat are oaks, crabapple, pines and cedars. Shrubs that do well in a backyard habitat are Dogwood, Elderberry, Honeysuckle, and Viburnum, Currants and blackberry and grape vines. Other plants that can be included are sunflowers, Black-eyed Susans, asters, marigolds, zinnias, and native grasses. You can add hummingbird and seed feeders if you want, but birds may only need the right plants to feed on.

    Acorn Woodpecker

    Acorn Woodpecker


    Another important element for a habitat garden is a water feature. This can be as complex as a re-circulating stream, or as simple as a birdbath made of a flowerpot saucer that you clean and fill daily. Locating your birdbath near a sprinkler can ‘automatically’ refill it often.

    Shelter and space to raise young

    Animals need brush piles and natural areas to hide from predators and make nests. A large branch or dead trunk can be placed in a flower bed or at the edge of the garden to slowly decompose and provide places to lay eggs and find worms. A small thicket can encourage quail to come to your garden.

    California Mule Deer

    California Mule Deer


    Restrict your use of chemicals in the garden and start a compost pile to use for a natural fertilizer. Mulching, and reducing the size of your lawn are other ways to avoid having weed killers and insect sprays and make your garden safe for the wildlife you want to attract.

    And you’re done!

    Finally, spend relaxing time in your garden. You are wildlife, too. Make a comfortable spot to sit and you will find yourself ‘out there’ much more often. Keep watch as beautiful birds, butterflies and other small, interesting visitors appear in your wildlife-friendly haven. Whenever you hear bad news on the news, step into your garden and realize that you have made a welcoming habitat for yourself as well!  ~~ Sue


    Scrub jay 'stealing' a peanut which he'll bury for later!

    Scrub jay ‘stealing’ a peanut which he’ll bury for later!


    Thanksgiving for the juncos

    Thanksgiving for the juncos

    Things To Do: Certify your Backyard Habitat        Teachers, you can start a Schoolyard Habitat


    Share and Enjoy


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.


    1. Judy says:

      Love all these ideas. Would really like to create something nice for my small patio space that would keep the birds and critters coming, but be able to enjoy more color to.

    2. Jimmye Porter says:

      I already have most of this, and try to keep small brush piles around the tree lines for the rabbits & birds.. and somewhere difficult to for Katty Kat to get to. I also keep fresh water out, even though my neighbor has the pond in the pasture. Also planting flowers for wildlife. tfs :))

    3. Jeanne Sammmons says:

      Good sustainable ideas here, Sue! Your pics are beautiful & you are so blessed to live within a natural setting. Yes, we must all do our part …you’re doing it beautifully! TFS!

    4. Felicia says:

      LOVE IT! We feed birds, but as much as I think the Jays are beautiful they clean out the peanut feeder in an hour. NO other birds can get in to the feeder once the Jays start calling to all their buddies…lol They empty it and move on. They seem disinterested in the suet feeders, but peanuts must
      be Blue Jay crack.

      1. Sue Langley says:

        Felicia, I’ve had that same experience,…can’t afford to feed these greedy birds peanuts anymore. The hummingbirds are bad enough with their sugar addictions, so I’m planting sages ….they’ll have to go natural! LOL! ~~ Sue