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Create Backyard Habitat

Silver Checkerspot Butterfly
Silver checkerspot butterfly (Photo: Aubrey Pawlikowski/GADNR)

Creating habitat for wildlife in your backyard means you won’t have to go far to enjoy nature and can help wildlife thrive too!

Suitable habitat for many species is declining, especially in urban and suburban areas. In addition to losing natural spaces to development, roads break up habitat and make travel more dangerous for wildlife as they search for necessities. Wildlife need food, water, shelter, and places to raise young—each within an animal’s home range. Providing one or all of these necessities in your backyard can help wildlife survive in the matrix of urban/suburban habitat.

Learn how to create quality habitat for wildlife in your backyard. Even small habitat improvements can make a big difference for wildlife! When combined with the efforts of your neighbors and others in your community, you can provide all the resources wildlife need to survive.

What do wildlife need to survive?

Food

Native plants provide the best nutrition for wildlife. These plants produce nuts, fruit, seeds, or nectar wildlife use as a food source. You can plant different native plants to attract specific wildlife species or groups, like songbirds, hummingbirds, butterflies, or insect-eating bats.

Give space for existing native plants to grow by removing non-native, invasive vegetation in your yard. Non-native, invasive vegetation can outcompete native plants and do not provide quality nutrition for wildlife. Because native vegetation has adapted to local conditions, they require less maintenance than non-native plants once established.

Birdfeeders can draw in a variety of songbirds, but should only supplement the natural foods in your habitat. Find a native plant nursery near you.

Ruby-throated hummingbird
Ruby-throated hummingbird (Photo: Todd Schneider)

Water

Like humans, wildlife needs clean water for drinking and bathing. If you don’t have a natural source of water on your property, you can add a birdbath, puddle or small pond. Small ponds or puddles can provide habitat for amphibians.

Creating a rain garden can provide a clean water source for wildlife and help reduce stormwater pollution.

Shelter/Places to Raise Young

The vegetation, dead trees, and logs in your yard can provide shelter for many species of wildlife, as well as nesting sites for birds. However, some wildlife have specific shelter or nesting requirements to raise their young. Consider adding a bird nest box, bat house, pollinator nesting box, or brush or rock pile to your backyard habitat.

Keep in mind that creating habitat for certain animals, like songbirds, can invite some unintended visitors, like raccoons or foxes. This is a sign of healthy habitat and demonstrates a functioning food web. However, conflicts between people and wildlife can happen. Learn how to prevent and resolve conflicts with wildlife.


Big brown bats clustered together
Big brown bats (Photo: Pete Pattavina/USFWS)

Additional Resources