Creating a Healthy Habitat
Flowering Dogwood
Essentials of a Healthy Habitat
Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird
Box All living creatures require food, water, cover, and places to raise their young.
Box Having a diversity of plants native to our local area can meet most of these wildlife needs and enhance biodiversity.
Box Layers of native vegetation are important to meet needs of various birds and other species that live at different levels. Large canopy trees,understory trees, shrubs, perennials, vines, native grasses, and ferns all have value to different creatures.
Box Shrubs and perennials should be planted close together for maximum benefit.
 
Food:
Provide sources of food year round.
American Goldfinches
American Goldfinches on Feeder
Box Native plants: These are the best sources of food for providing seeds, nuts, berries, nectar, and foliage for birds, mammals, and insects during all seasons of the year.
Box Host plants for butterflies: Adult butterflies lay their eggs on species-specific host plants where their larvae feed.
Box Native insects: These, especially leaf-eating insects, are an important food for many birds and are essential for nestlings. Eliminate the use of pesticides, which indiscriminately kill not only non-native insect pests, but all insects including butterflies and their caterpillar larvae.  To keep insect populations in balance, have a diversity of native plants to attract insect-eating birds as well as predatory and parasitic insects.
 

- Leaf litter: Many insects and other invertebrates can be found here and provide food for birds and other small animals.  Use as mulch in flower beds, or even in a small tucked away corner of the yard.

   

- Feeders: Some bird species will eat seeds, nuts, suet, and nectar supplied at feeders, but feeders should always be considered as supplemental to good habitat.

Water:
Provide fresh water, an essential substance for all living creatures, during the four seasons.
Backyard Pond Box Birdbath: Birds and other wildlife will drink and bathe in a birdbath. It should be located in a spot near cover and cleaned regularly.
Box Pond: Birds, dragonflies, toads, frogs, chipmunks and other creatures will use even a small in-ground pond for drinking and bathing. Shallow, slanted sides allow animals to enter and exit the water safely.
Box De-icer: A heater will keep water in a birdbath or pond open during freezing weather.
Box Waterfall or dripper: Birds are attracted to the sound of moving water.
  Box Mister: Many birds, especially hummingbirds, enjoy water spray.
   

In cold weather: To keep water from freezing, use a heater in a bird bath or small pond or keep your pond pump running.

Cover:
Offer plenty of cover so that wildlife has places to hide from predators and is protected from wind, rain, snow, and other severe weather conditions
Black-eyed Susans
Black-eyed Susans and Liatris in Meado
Box Provide a wide variety of densely planted deciduous and evergreen native trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, grasses, and ferns.
Box Create layers preferred by various forms of wildlife. Under canopy trees plant understory trees, shrubs, and shade-loving plants.
Box In sunny open areas plant perennials and native grasses closely together or install a small meadow.
Box Minimize space devoted to turf grass.
Box Provide protective cover around bird feeders and water sources.
Box Leave some dead plant materials. A dead or dying tree (snag) can be a roosting place for birds and small mammals. A brushpile, woodpile, and leaf litter offer protection, too.
  Box Provide man-made houses to shelter birds, bats, and toads.
     
Places to raise young:
Provide locations and conditions so that birds, butterflies, and other insects and creatures can mate and care for their offspring on your property.
Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird Nestlings
Box Native trees, shrubs, and vines: Dense evergreen and deciduous vegetation offers nest sites.
Box Dead trees and limbs: These provide cavities for nesting owls, woodpeckers, opossums, and other birds and animals.
Box Pond: An in-ground pond offers a place for frogs, toads, dragonflies, and other water-dependent creatures to lay their eggs.
Box Butterfly host plants: Most butterflies lay their eggs on specific host plants, e.g., Monarch butterflies lay their eggs exclusively on plants in the milkweed family.
  Box Nest boxes: Many cavity-nesting birds will use birdhouses. Each species has requirements for size of opening, interior dimensions, and habitat location.
 
Other Ingredients of a Healthy Habitat
Box Remove invasive plants. These crowd out native plants and decrease biodiversity.
 

Provide safety for wildlife. Clean feeders and birdbaths regularly. Keep cats indoors.

  • Use organic methods.  Eliminate use of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers.  Use mulch and compost.
  • Minimize water use.  Use drip irrigation and/or a rain barrel.  Consider installing a rain garden.
  • Reduce lawn areas.  Practice chemical-free lawn care on remaining turf grass.