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Backyard Habitat and Birding: What you Need

April 8, 2020

During this pandemic, many are staying home, and have chosen to pass the time by working in their yards. Since so many parks are closed, I recommend turning your yard into a park. The National Wildlife Federation has a program to certify your yard as a backyard habitat. This gives you a convenient place to participate in outdoor activities such as birding.

A backyard habitat needs five things: food sources, water, cover, places to raise young and sustainable practices. I’ve done this in my own yard, and wildlife has not let me down. Screech owls, hummingbirds, various butterflies and black racer snakes are just a few.  

What You Need for Backyard Habitat:

Food sources

Native plants excel as sources of food for local wildlife. Seek berry, nut or seed producing plants for birds and mammals. Nectar and host plants for butterflies. Host plants serve as a place for butterflies to lay eggs. It is important to have food sources for all seasons throughout the year. Local nurseries should be able to help you with your selections. Variety in plants will produce variety in wildlife.


A water source is very simple. It can be as elaborate as a pond or fountain, or as simple as a bird bath. If you choose a bird bath, be sure to fill it regularly as the wildlife counts on it.


Cover is simply a place to shelter from predators. Often dense plants can serve this function. Rock piles, roosting boxes and ponds are just some of the many options. The easiest method is to have a simple brush pile. Without a place to be safe, prey species will not want to be in your yard, and without prey neither will the predators.

Place to raise young

Simply put for your yard to be a wildlife habitat, it needs to be a home for wildlife. Home is where family is. For example, this includes bird and bat houses, mature trees and as mentioned before host plants.

Sustainable practices

To certify your yard, the National Wildlife Federation requires you use at least two of the following sustainable practices.

Soil and water conservation limits erosion and water waste.
Controlling exotic species helps local wildlife by limiting invasive species which do not help or even out competes local wildlife.
Organic practices limit harmful chemicals which can negatively impact the wildlife you are seeking to attract.

For instance, all these requirements can be found on the NWF website. This leads us to the last step of the process.

Enjoy the wildlife

Enhance your enjoyment by using a good set of binoculars. Select a pair with the best light gathering ability as it is best to see wildlife during the early morning or evening. At this time of the day, the light is less bright. When birding, small details used for identification can be hard to see in low light conditions. For help selecting binoculars, contact our store and see our recent blog on the topic.

To correctly identify birds and other wildlife, consult a reputable guide book (Audubon, Kaufman, Peterson or Sibley) or app (Merlin, iBird).  Remember that some species are similar to each other. True identification is in the details. Sometime a detail like the color around the eyes, bands on the wings or shape of the tail matter. Even if you don’t identify a particular critter, your enjoyment of nature’s beauty is priceless.

During this time of social distancing, Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure endeavors to provide our usual level of customer service with everyone’s safely in mind. Please call us with any questions you may have at 727-576-4169. Happy adventure. Stay safe.


Brant Bowers

Camping Department Manager