Creating a Wildlife Habitat in Your Backyard

Does the thought of seeing colorful birds flitting around your yard or watching gorgeous butterflies go from flower to flower seem like the perfect addition to your outdoor space? Consider making part of your yard into a wildlife habitat and enjoy the show.

 Learning how to create a habitat is very easy as there are only three requirements - water, shelter, and food. Water can be as easy as a birdbath or a plant saucer on the ground. Shelter may consist of plants, shrubs, trees or birdhouses. Food is either feeders or native plants. It is all very easy and can cost very little or a lot, depending on what you want.

But... keep in mind, you will also attract wildlife that you may not want hanging around. Squirrels, chipmunks, bully birds, and raccoon are a few that love to find an easy meal or shelter. You can't blame them for dropping in to eat if fast food is there for the taking. It is easy to blame the "offending" bird or animal for barging in, but you are inviting them. There are some ways to discourage unwanted guests by using fences, sprays, and proper placement of feeders, but some will still find their way to the easy food. Never remove an animal without getting proper approval from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries or other government agency.

Now let's move on to the good stuff... creating a wildlife habitat. We will start with water, a universal need, and a very easy project. You may want a lovely fountain or pond, a birdbath or just a plant saucer in your flowerbed to provide water. Try to place your water source far enough away from plants to prevent cats and other predators from attacking. Keep the water source clean to eliminate mosquitoes or debris from causing problems. Even an old trashcan lid can be buried up to its rim and transformed into a great watering hole! Put some low-growing plants around it, and you have a great. low-cost pond.

Providing shelter is easy and can bring out your creative side. Everything needs shelter from weather, predators or just as a home for their young. Planting trees and shrubs are a wonderful way to provide shelter and add a lot to your yard. You can make creative birdhouses or buy ones that suit your needs or décor.

Food is the final need and simple to provide. Native plants are a beautiful way to have a great food supply. They are easy to care for and they can handle just about anything Nature can throw. Two pluses to planting natives are there are no feeders to fill and no messy shells. Natives also encourage may beneficial insects and birds to visit your yard and control pests. Or hang or pole-mount feeders in different areas of your yard filled with different kinds of seeds. This will bring a nice variety of birds to grace your yard.

Proper placement of feeders is very important to eliminate or cut down on visits from many unwanted critters. One easy way to discourage blackbirds and squirrels from cleaning out your feeders is safflower seeds. Most backyard birds love it and will flock to your feeders and the "offenders" will find other places to eat.