It’s easy to turn your backyard into a sanctuary for birds, squirrels, and other wildlife, which can make you feel good about helping animals or just give you more opportunities for nature-watching. Most animals are happy to hang around as long as there’s something to eat and drink and a safe place to seek shelter if they need it. Try making a few changes in your yard to make it a more attractive place for animals to be.

Tips to Attract Wildlife

  • Provide sources of clean water. Like humans, animals in the wild need clean water to drink. Consider adding a water feature to your backyard, such as a bird bath or shallow pond.
  • Grow plants that attract wildlife. Research what types of plants your favorite animals like, and then plant accordingly. For example, honeybees are drawn to flowers such as asters, cosmos, poppies, and sunflowers.
  • Keep a patch of long grass. While you don’t have to let your entire backyard become overgrown, consider leaving a small patch long. Insects and small rodents use long grass as a natural habitat.
  • Build brush shelters out of branches and logs. Interweave materials to create a safe and secure shelter for small mammals looking for cover from harsh temperatures or the elements.
  • Leave dead trees in place. If possible, leave any dead trees you may have in your yard untouched. Dead trees provide small mammals with a safe place to raise their young and attract insects and lichens that act as food for other animals.
  • Avoid the use of pesticides. These can be harmful to insects and animals and interrupt the natural food chain. By attracting birds and other creatures to your backyard, you won’t need pesticides, as pests will be controlled naturally.
  • Don’t waste food. If a bad apple falls off of a tree or you have cut up fruit that is too ripe, leave it in your backyard or garden instead of throwing it away. This will attract insects and other animals.
  • Use climbing plants. Climbing plants like ivy can be grown on a trellis, fence, or garden wall. Birds may then use the plants to nest in.
  • Set up bird houses. Provide refuge for birds in your area by hanging bird houses on trees or setting them on posts. Mount houses with the entrance hole facing slightly downward and away from direct wind.
  • Grow a hedge. Consider growing a hedge in your backyard to provide birds and small animals a place to nest and stay hidden. Buckthorn, blackthorn, cherry plum, hazel, and elder are good options.
  • Grow wildflowers. Bees and butterflies are attracted to wildflowers. Good options include butterfly bush, cosmos, daylily, aster, and delphinium.

What You Need to Attract Common Types of Wildlife

  • Hummingbirds: nectar feeders, bee balm, trumpet honeysuckle
  • Bumblebees: ground cover, shallow water dishes, lilies, poppies
  • Birds: moving water, roost boxes, seed-bearing flowers
  • Squirrels: thick vegetation, trees like spruces and pines, corn cobs
  • Deer: red clover, orchard grass, chicory, apple trees
  • Rabbits: lettuce, carrots, clover, sumac, oak, dogwood