Whether you have a large yard or small patio, it is easy to create an oasis for wildlife, birds and butterflies. With just a few simple steps you can make a habitat for wildlife. The main elements to provide are: cover, food and water.
Cover for Wildlife
A wildlife friendly area has plants to provide shade, a perch to rest on, somewhere to hide and places to raise babies. Providing cover encourages wildlife to come and visit you.
If you have a patio all of this can be done by hanging flower baskets to entice butterflies and hummingbirds. Set out a few shrubs in pots and you now have cover for a small area.
After a downsize, I now have a small condo garden. What I did was to rework my flower beds around the patio to put in all native plants and shrubs. It was a little bit of work but it has paid off by having hardy plants that are colorful and need less care. On the patio are flower pots and hanging baskets for butterflies. The bird feeders went in the garden area and hummingbird feeders on the patio. There is a large common grassy area nearby, so I took the chance of adding to the patio post a bluebird nest box on the edge of my little garden. This spring I have had the fun of watching bluebirds!
For a backyard habitat, set aside a spot for your wildscape that will be free of pesticides. Planting native trees, vines, grasses and shrubs have an added bonus of being low maintenance. Try to include plants that will have berries for birds and small animals. Your local county extension office can advise you on the best type of plants that are good for your climate. They will usually send you a free assortment of booklets for making a wildscape in your area. In many states, the Parks and Wildlife Department will have free backyard habitat information. The National Wildlife Federation has a backyard certification program.
Putting up bird houses will encourage them to raise families year after year in your yard. I have found that some birds are not particular and will make nests in unusual places. I have had nests made in a wreath on my porch, a clay pot turned on it side on a garden bench and once in the small space between the porch light and the house. I put up a sign and made everyone use the back door for a short time, lol.
Feeding Birds and Squirrels
Native plants do supply food for wildlife, but having feeders in your habitat is so much fun. Almost anything can be used to put seeds in. Just be sure to keep your feeders clean and full through the year.
A simple humming bird feeder (hung in the shade) will attract many hummers and you may find that you want more than one. Here is my page with a nectar recipe: Feeding Hummingbirds
When buying bird seed it is best to get a good quality mixture with sunflower seeds, cracked corn, peanuts and millet. Birds will often toss out what they do not want. What hits the ground will be eaten by ground feeders such as doves and chipmunks. There are different kinds of seeds and bird suet to attract a wide variety of birds. I love them all so my patio habitat includes several types of feeders and seeds.
Many people get absolutely unreasonable about squirrels in their bird feeders. I have never really had a problem and will share my secret – put out lots of feeders for the squirrels and fill them with the same mixture. There are many beautiful bird feeders on the market and squirrels will chew. My best advice is to just get some cheap ones. That way you are not driving yourself nuts trying to control what you can not. Squirrels are a wonderful addition to a wildlife habitat and their antics are amusing. Life is too short to get upset about squirrels in bird feeders!
Water for Wildlife
The most important thing in providing water for your wildlife habitat is to be sure to keep it clean and change out the water often. A saucer for potted plants with a few rocks works very well as a birdbath. Shallow containers are better than ones with steep sides. To attract birds the water needs to be no more than 2-3 inches deep. If you have the space, you may want to think about a pond for wildlife or put a small fountain on your patio.
Please be sure to clean your water containers. Bleach or sudsy water are fine to use, but take special care to rinse well. In the winter you will need to replace frozen water with fresh water.
Turning your yard or patio into a wildlife habitat is a rewarding experience. Planting native plants reduces the need for pesticides. Birds in the yard will take care of unwanted bugs. Many of these animals and birds will come to feed and take up residence in your wildscape sanctuary. The best part is the fun of nature watching in your own backyard!