One of the benefits of gardening is the pleasure of seeing birds and butterflies. There is nothing like sitting outside on a lovely summer morning just after a rain storm listening to the birds sing their happy songs or watching a swarm of butterflies dance from flower to flower.
If you want to increase these pleasures in your own backyard, you will need to make your backyard as appealing to wildlife as you can. The size, location, and current structure of your outdoor space dictate how much you can do, but everyone can create a wildlife oasis even if it’s on an urban balcony.
Water. Everyone needs water and wildlife is no exception. Birds are attracted to any body of water, whether big or small. If you don’t already have a permanent water source in your yard, you can provide one simply by installing a bird bath or fountain. Many people build small ponds or even mini-stream beds in their yard. The flowing water will attract more wildlife than still water.
Shelter. Animals need to be able to hide from predators and stormy weather. Birds usually prefer trees for their shelter. Bushes and mass plantings provide shelter for all types of wildlife. Even piles of cut brush in an out-of-the-way spot on your property can provide a welcome retreat. If you have fish or other water creatures, be sure there are plenty of heavy rocks in the water to provide shelter from predators and that it is deep enough to prevent total freezing in the winter.
Food. Every creature needs a food supply, but the preferred food varies by type of creature. Focus on each type of wildlife you want to attract and provide food that they will prefer. Birds prefer insects and seed producing plants, but they are also pleased with well-stocked bird feeders. Butterflies and their larvae feast on leaves, usually from plants that are native to the region. Amphibians eat insects, which are abundant in most gardens.
Nesting Sites. Similar to the shelter aspect, animals need a safe place to nest their young. Birds like high tree branches and secluded locations that are difficult for predators to reach or see. They also like bird houses that are perched on a tall pole. Certain bird house styles attract specific birds, so decide which birds you want to attract before you install one. Butterflies need plants for their larvae that they can feed on. Fish and frogs need protected water sources for their eggs, large rocks piled under the surface of a pond are ideal.
By providing these basic necessities you will create a wildlife habitat, whether in a large yard or on a small deck or patio. Include flowers of a variety of bright colors, running water, and feeders to initially attract wildlife, and if they find all of their needs met they will stick around for years to come.