Certified Wildlife Habitat | Backyard Sanctuary for Birds and Critters of all Kinds
There has always been an abundance of wildlife in our yard since moving in eight years ago. We live in what you could call a smallish town, but technically it’s considered a city due to the population per square mile. We live more toward the outer edge of town and our house backs up to a woods, making it feel more like country living, even though shopping, schools, gas stations and doctors are all within minutes of our home. Comparatively speaking, we have a lot of wildlife for someone living in the city.
We have always been heavily into feeding and attracting birds to our yard. We maintain three to four bird feeders consisting of Black Oil Sunflower Seed, as well as two Suet feeders, a Nectar feeder and a Grape Jelly Feeder. Our Black Oil Sunflower Seed is purchased in bulk and we probably go through 50 pounds of seed every 2-3 days during the mid to late summer when fledglings are prevalent and birds are stockpiling their fat reserves for the colder weather. On average, we go through a dozen Suet cakes every 4-5 days, which could easily be doubled once the Starlings and Grackles show up, but we have to draw the line somewhere. We also have a small pond and a couple bird baths- water, as well as food, shelter and housing, are great additions to your yard if you’re looking to attract more birds to it.
There are currently at least 32 different birds that visit our yard. Some of the more common birds that we see include Blue Jays, Cardinals, House Sparrows, Finches, Wrens, American Robins, Goldfinches, European Starlings, Common Grackles and Mourning Doves. We see a variety of Woodpeckers including Downy and Hairy, Red-Bellied, Northern Flickers and on occasion, the Pileated. We have seen Red-Tailed and Cooper’s Hawks and are visited regularly by both Red-Breasted and White-Breasted Nuthatches and Chickadees. During the late Spring, Summer and early Fall we are graced with Gray Catbirds, Baltimore Orioles, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks and Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds. We’ve even been visited by an Eastern Screech Owl and I can’t forget about the Wild Turkeys that visit us year-round.
We also have 14 birdhouses placed strategically around our yard. We usually have a 50% occupancy rate and have witnessed more baby birds this year than any other. Most of our houses are filled with House Sparrows, who have had 2-3 broods each this summer. We have a Wren who comes back every year and she raised some beautiful babies again this year. We were even lucky enough to have an American Robin family nest in our Crabapple tree and raise their young. They were so fun to watch.
A few months back, we had our yard “Certified” by the National Wildlife Federation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Since we posted the sign that we received from them, it would seem that every critter in the vicinity has seen it as an open invitation to take up residence in our yard. We have always seen White-Tailed Deer in the woods- they come quite close to the house and eat my plants. We’ve seen a bunny or two and a raccoon here and there, not to mention lots of squirrels. From time to time the frogs and toads make our yard their home as well. Now that we are “officially” a Certified Wildlife Habitat, we have acquired a garden snake, three bunnies, two skunks and a groundhog (or woodchuck). As of last night, my boyfriend thinks he spotted an opossum! I had always hoped one would visit our yard- they are so cute- the way they hang from their tails and Mom carries her young on her back. I guess the only thing I haven’t seen yet is a pheasant- I’m keeping my fingers crossed on that one.
Although our visitors are super cute, they are not all welcomed or well-behaved guests. The groundhog is naughty and eats all of my plants in addition to digging big holes in the ground and under our deck. The skunks also dig small holes all over the back yard in search of grubs, and then there’s the risk of getting sprayed if we get too close or startle them. All of these critters have come to our yard in search of the tasty bird seed that falls from the bird feeders. They are so involved in eating, that they don’t pay much attention to us getting so close to photograph them.
You too can get your yard “certified” as a Back Yard Wildlife Habitat by visiting the National Wildlife Federation at http://www.nwf.org/Garden-For-Wildlife.aspx
Click on “Certify Your Garden”, register by creating a free account, fill out a short questionnaire about your yard, including Food and Water Sources, Cover, Places to Raise Young and Sustainable Practices. Then choose the flag, sign or plaque that you wish to display in your yard. They do charge a small fee for this, but it’s basically a donation to a good cause and you get some added benefits because you are now a member of the National Wildlife Federation. You will be helping to make a difference in this world and inspiring others to do the same.
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