Quick and Easy Healthy Habitat Ideas

Demanding job? Young children? Ailing parents? Perhaps you’ve become interested in attracting birds and other wildlife to your backyard, but haven’t had the time to carry out any projects. Here are some ideas that will take very little effort. Do one or two of these each season or even once a year and gradually your property will become a haven for wildlife.

  1. Plant some native perennial flowers. Instead of replanting annuals each year, substitute attractive perennial wildflowers in your border or flowerbed. For an area with sun to part shade, good choices include Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), Butterfly Weed (Aesclepias tuberosa), New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae), Threadleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum), Gayfeather (Liaitris spicata), Bee-balm (Monarda didyma), Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata), and Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida). These wildflowers are available at most well-stocked nurseries. From May to October you will have colorful flowers that offer nectar for butterflies and hummingbirds.
  2. Plant a tree. Some good native yard trees include Red Maple (Acer rubrum), American Holly (Ilex opaca), Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis), River Birch (Betula nigra), Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida), Tulip Poplar (Lirodendron tulipifera), Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus), or one of the oaks such as White Oak (Quercus alba). Most of these can be found at garden centers, too.
  3. Plant three native shrubs. To attract the attention of migrating or wintering birds, select three of a single species with berries. These could be Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata), Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium coryumbosa), or one of the viburnums like Mapleleaf Viburnum (Viburnum acerfolium), Arrowwood Viburnum (V. dentatum), or Blackhaw Viburnum (V. prunifolium).
  4. Upgrade your bird feeding station. Make a change that will attract a greater variety of birds. Thistle will attract goldfinches and other finches. Peanut pieces will appeal to Downy, Hairy, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers as well as Carolina Wrens, White-breasted Nuthatch, and maybe a wintering Red-breasted Nuthatch. To keep squirrels from consuming most of your seed, purchase a cylindrical baffle and install it on a pole with arms for multiple feeders. If the birds are hard to see from inside your house, move the feeding station to a spot closer to a window where you spend time.
  5. Provide an improved source of water. Perhaps you already have a birdbath. You’ll have more birds using the bath if you make the water move with a dripper or a little waterfall. A de-icer will keep the water available for thirsty birds during the freezing months of winter. Check Avianaquatics.com, a website source of water-related products for birds.
  6. Install a nest box. Hang a birdhouse for one of the cavity nesting backyard birds like House Wren, Chickadee, or Tufted Titmouse. You can purchase a nest box with the appropriate sized hole and interior dimensions at a store that specializes in backyard bird feeding.
  7. Create a brush pile. Instead of bundling up woody debris to be taken to the dump, its easy to make it into a pile for sparrows, wrens, towhees, chipmunks and other creatures that love dense cover. It can be near a window if you want to watch the activity and don’t mind an untidy spot, or you can relegate it to a remote corner of your yard.
  8. Stop using pesticides. Birds, butterflies, and all the creatures that depend on insects will benefit. And what could be easier?
  9. Visit a native plant nursery or attend a native plant sale. This is a good way to learn about native plants. And, of course, you should buy some. Take a look at our list of sources of native plants.
  10. Buy a book. Marci Mowery’s Native Plants in the Creation of Backyard, Schoolyard, and Park Habitat Areas: Audubon Protecting Animals through Habitat is a good introduction to habitat gardening and local native plants. To order, send $9.00 to Audubon Council of Pennsylvania, 100 Wildwood Way, Harrisburg, PA 17110.