Transform Your Backyard into a Wildlife Habitat

When creating a wildlife habitat, there are four key elements that wildlife need in order to flourish – food plants, water, shelter and places to raise their young.

You will need to develop a plan that takes into consideration the needs of the wildlife you wish to attract. Take an assessment of what you have (include all the plants and natural features in your yard), and what landscaping features you will need to add.

  1. Food plants. Many of the most popular ornamental plants sold at garden centers have been bred for bigger, showier flowers, compactness of growth or other “human-pleasing” qualities. Many are hybrids that don’t produce seed. These “improved” plants are not as attractive to wildlife as native varieties, which produce various foods. (Don’t worry, native plants still are very attractive — just not quite as flashy as many commonly grown ornamentals.) Check with your provincial natural resources department for information on the best native plants to grow in your area.
    Add some native plants to your property each year, and soon you’ll have lots of seeds, nuts, berries, pollen and nectar to attract all kinds of birds, insects and other animals. To attract specific kinds of wildlife, such as butterflies or hummingbirds, grow specific plants that they like. In no time at all, you’ll be able to sit back, relax and watch your wildlife because native plants need very little fertilizer or supplemental water after they become established.
  2. Water. Water sources for wildlife are especially crucial in areas where creeks may be covered with concrete and puddles are polluted by gasoline and antifreeze. Even a few shallow dishes or birdbaths scattered around your property and kept full of clean water will help attract and sustain many creatures. If you have space, consider installing a pond.
  3. Cover. Plant a variety of evergreen and deciduous trees, shrubs and grasses to shelter wildlife from weather and predators. Tall trees work like high-rise apartments — different species will occupy each level, from ground to canopy. Leave the plants in your flower garden standing through the winter so that birds can feed on the seeds and beneficial insects can overwinter in the plantings. Don’t rush to clear out dead trees; they provide habitat for flying squirrels, raccoons, owls, woodpeckers and other birds. If you have room, make piles of stones or brush to provide dense cover for small ground creatures.
  4. Places to Raise Young. Many areas that give cover also will be suitable for rearing offspring. In addition, you can put up nesting boxes for birds, bat houses and even bee blocks.Learn the life histories of your favorite species to accommodate their different life stages. Tadpoles and young dragonflies, for example, are water bound during their initial development, so they require a pond with clean water and aquatic vegetation. Butterflies need native wildflowers from which to harvest nectar and host plants to feed on in their caterpillar stage.After you’ve introduced new habitat, be sure to keep your eyes open. Planting cedar trees as habitat can bring song sparrows that would never have appeared there before. A property that is lush with trees, shrubs and a pond or water sources will become a popular stopping point for migratory birds, and for transplanted human nature lovers, too.


Click here for a list of native Ontario wildflowers

Click here for a list of native Ontario trees and shrubs


If you put a few simple things in your backyard, the benefits you will reap from the habitat will equal those the wildlife will reap.

The Benefits Of Landscaping For Wildlife

• Attract and increase wildlife abundance on your property by planting specific plant species.
• Increase the ecological stability of your property.
• Plantings help provide protection for wildlife from predators.
• Save home heating and cooling costs.
• Conifers (evergreens) planted on the north and west sides of your home can help reduce the cooling effect of harsh winds on your house while providing shelter for songbirds.
• Deciduous trees planted on the south side of a home can shade the house in the summer, reducing cooling costs.
• Many plants can provide food and nesting sites.