(Family Features) If you enjoy the outdoors, want to learn more about nature or want to make your yard more earth-friendly, then creating a backyard habitat is for you. Thousands of people all over the country have taken simple steps to make their yards attractive to and safe for wildlife.
No matter the species, all wildlife needs three things to thrive: food, water, shelter. And no matter what size your yard or budget, you can provide these elements easily.
Planting native flowers, shrubs and trees is the easiest way to provide the foliage, nectar, pollen, berries, seeds, and nuts that many species of wildlife need. Native plants thrive in the growing conditions in your area, so they usually require less water, fertilizer and maintenance than other plants.
Select a variety of plants that bloom at different times of the year and have year-round seasonal interest. If space is limited, select one plant that can be used by wildlife for a variety of purposes throughout the year.
Other sources of food include bird and hummingbird feeders, squirrel feeders, and butterfly feeders. These can provide important nutrients for resident and migrating wildlife during times when natural foods are not as available. You can find inexpensive feeders at garden centers and home improvement stores, or you can make your own.
Wildlife need sources of clean water for many purposes, including drinking, bathing, and reproduction. Water sources can be natural features such as ponds or creeks. If you have a pond, you can add a "toad abode" to provide shelter for amphibians on land.
Water features don't have to be big. They can be as simple as a bird bath, puddling areas for butterflies, installed ponds, or rain gardens.
Birds and animals require places to hide in order to be safe from people, predators, and bad weather. They also need safe places to nest and raise their young. The easiest way to provide shelter is to use native vegetation.
Different types of animals need different types of cover. Squirrels and most birds need trees and shrubs for shelter. Rabbits and some birds like to hide in thick areas of vegetation near the ground. Woodpeckers and owls need dead trees. Small animals such as chipmunks, reptiles and insects like rocks, logs and mulch piles.
A combination of trees, bushes, brush piles and rock piles gives you the best results.
Evergreens are useful because they provide year round coverage from weather and predators.
Avoid planting shrubs close to your house because wild animals stick close to their shelter areas. Instead, create corridors of shelter around the edges of your yard.
You can also build a birdhouse made for the types of birds you want to attract. A roosting box for bats gives them a place to rest in between their evening outings to catch insects.
The amount of shelter you can provide will depend on the size of your yard. But even the smallest yard can hold a birdhouse and a few bushes to provide shelter.
Bringing wildlife to your yard is a great way to give back to nature and enjoy its beauty right from your own window.