Backyard Naturalist: Habitats for Wildlife


How can you attract birds and wildlife to your backyard?  Make it place they want to be with food and water and a place to hide!  Here are ideas to help you get started.

Provide The Basics

All animals need a habitat basics:  good access to food, water, and a place to hide from predators.           

  • Water can be as simple as a hanging birdbath or one on a pedestal for birds or on the ground for mammals.  Just keep it clean and full and don't let it stagnate or mosquitoes will move in!
  • If you'd like to build your own rain barrel to take advantage of the water that comes off your roof, here are step-by-step directions.
  • Feeding birds can be done year round and this website is the perfect place to start. 
  • Feeding wildlife is not a good idea, but they will appreciate the water.
  • Habitat for birds includes trees and bushes for cover.  Mammals, like rabbits, will hide under bushes as well.  If you have an area in your yard where you can allow plants to grow tall, mammals will use it to their advantage!  This site will give you some great information about Creating Your Own Wildflower Meadow.
  • Hummingbirds like particular plants so as you plan your garden, check out these tips. (Thanks to our young birder friend, Lily, who shared this link with us.)
  • Here is a great resource for making your property more friendly for the Chesapeake Bay.

Using Native Plants

What's the big deal about native plants?  These are grasses, bushes, flowers, and trees that were here before colonists arrived 400 years ago.  Plants and animals that have come here from other countries are called "exotics" and they can be invasive, growing so fast that they crowd out native species.   Check out this especially insightful article on the reasons why you should choose your plants carefully.

We know you're familiar with the invasive Brown Marmorated Stinkbug, but did you know the earthworm is not native to North America?  Even the lowly dandelion was brought here with the early colonists! 

Native plants are adapted to the weather and climate of our region, they provide food and habitats for local wildlife, and they don't require extra fertilizer!  That's especially important when you are protecting the health of rivers and streams and the aquatic life that lives there.

Common Invasive Plants of the Potomac River  (The brochure is meant to be downloaded and folded, so some of the print appears upside down.)

WV Invasive Roadside Plants [Pictures]  [Text]

Native Plant Nurseries

Not every gardening nursery stocks native trees and bushes, so we have some suggestions here.

Signature Nursery, Freeland MD

Environmental Concern, St. Michaels MD (limited retail sales)

Native Plant Nurseries in Maryland

Native Plant Resources

Some excellent information for choosing native plants can be downloaded here:

Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping (USFWS publication)

Maryland: Mountain Region (USFWS publication)

Bringing Nature Home (Doug Tallamy's great website about native plants)

           © 2016 Potomac Valley Audubon Society

              P.O. Box 578 • Shepherdstown, West Virginia 25443
              phone // 304-676-3397

Yankauer Nature Preserve (Berkeley County)
Eidolon Nature Preserve (Morgan County)
Stauffer's Marsh (Berkeley County)
Cool Spring Nature Preserve (Jefferson County)

Kristin Alexander, Executive Director //   304-676-3397

Kimberly Baldwin, Program Director //

Katelyn "KC" Walters, Conservation and Land Manager // 304-283-7319

Krista Hawley, Adult Program Coordinator
// 703-303-1026

Amy Moore, Cool Spring Preserve Manager and Naturalist // 240-818-4714
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