Certifying your Yard as a Wildlife Habitat
If you have a large back yard or property that meets these requirements, you could certify your land to become a wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation. Learn more about the requirements that need to be met before your yard can be certified.
Planting native plants including trees, shrubs and grasses in your yard provides natural food sources such as berries, seeds, and nectar for local birds and animals. Native plants also attract insects, which are an important food source for birds, amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals. In addition to plants, hanging or placing bird, butterfly, or squirrel feeders where they can be safely accessed provides supplemental food sources.
To qualify for certification, three of the following food sources must be present in your yard: seeds from a plant, foliage and twigs, berries, fruits, nuts, nectar, pollen, sap, suet, bird feeder, hummingbird feeder, squirrel feeder, or butterfly feeder.
Clean water is a critical component of habitat. The type of water you provide will attract different types of wildlife. A simple birdbath will attract birds that come to drink and bathe, while a pond, water garden, or stream may bring frogs, turtles, or other types of aquatic animals.
To qualify for certification, one of the following water sources must be available: birdbath, water garden or pond, rain garden, seasonal pool, butterfly puddling area, spring, stream, river, lake, or ocean.
Places for Cover
Animals and birds need places for shelter from predators and bad weather. These can be trees, shrubs, thickets or brush piles, which provide places for wildlife to hide. Dead trees (snags) provide habitat for a wide variety of species as they decay, serving as nesting sites, hiding places or food storage areas for birds, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, and raptors. Bird houses, bat houses, and roosting boxes can be constructed to provide shelter for many species of wildlife.
Two of the following types of shelter must be provided to qualify for certification: dense shrubs or thicket, bramble patch, wooded area, evergreen trees, ground cover, brush or log pile, meadow or prairie, burrow, rock pile or wall, cave, water garden, pond, or roosting box.
Places to Raise Young
The habitat must provide places where wildlife can carry out all the stages of their life cycle. They need a place for reproduction where they can mate, give birth, and raise their young safely. Some species need specific types of habitat in order to reproduce. For example, frogs need standing water in which to lay their eggs and for their tadpoles to grow to adulthood. Butterfly caterpillars need certain species of host plants on which to lay their eggs. Many of the places that provide shelter and cover can also serve as places to raise young.
Two of the following places are necessary to qualify for certification: mature trees, dead trees, dense shrubs or thicket, meadow or prairie, host plants for caterpillars, burrow, cave, wetland, water garden or pond, or nesting box.
Practice environmentally friendly gardening to maintain your wildlife habitat. Some sustainable gardening practices include: capture rainwater, rain garden, xeriscaping (using drought-tolerant plants to save water), drip irrigation, limit erosion, mulch, limit water use, riparian border, replace invasive plants with native plants, integrated pest management, reduce lawn areas, eliminate chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and compost. Two of these sustainable gardening techniques must be practiced to qualify for certification.
To learn much more about the program and to sign up to get your yard certified, visit the National Wildlife Federation's website.