17 Tips for Making Your Backyard Wildlife Friendly on a Budget

Photo: NY DEC

Now that spring is here, I’m itching to get started on a few projects in the yard. While I like the thought of making my outdoor space more wildlife-friendly, I don’t want to break the bank. Luckily, Robin Woodroof addresses this very issue in the Oconee Rivers Audubon Society March newsletter.
Woodroof points out that while there are many fancy, costly outdoor items for sale, they aren’t necessary for attracting wildlife. “You really don’t have to spend a lot to enjoy wildlife and the more natural an area is, the more likely wildlife will feel at home,” writes Woodroof. “Here are a few ideas that will attract birds, amphibians, insects, reptiles, small mammals and probably a few surprises.”

  • 1) Ask friends if they have any plants, clippings, pots, garden tools, bird feeders or other supplies they would like to get rid of or donate to you
  • 2) Make your own bird feeder, bird house, bat house, or butterfly house
  • 3) Create an in-ground or above-ground water bath from a plant saucer, garbage can lid, snow disc or other saucer-shaped item and line with small rocks or pebbles (using non-toxic glue)
  • 4) Plant trees, shrubs, vines, annuals and perennials that provide natural food so less supplemental bird seed will be needed
  • 5) Black oil sunflower seed supplies high quality food to the majority of backyard bird species
  • 6) Chisel out the top one to three inches of an old stump for a birdbath
  • 7) Make your own suet by re-using the plastic containers from previously purchased suet
  • 8) Create toad abodes from old or broken pots
  • 9) Shop thrift stores, garage sales, and check clearance shelves at name brand stores
  • 10) Create rock gardens from rocks found on your property
  • 11) Use water from downspouts, rainwater, rain barrels, and air-conditioning drips to refill birdbaths
  • 12) Landscape with tree limbs and leave dead trees to provide food and shelter
  • 13) Create brush piles from pruned trees, shrubs and vines
  • 14) Look for ideas in garden and bird magazines
  • 15) Check out field guides and wildlife books from local libraries or borrow some from a friend
  • 16) Search the web for information and images on wildlife, bird, plant and garden topics
  • 17) Decorate an old chair or bench and enjoy watching the wildlife that visit!

Audubon At Home offers a good variety of information, and you can take the online pledge to join others in creating healthy habitats by planting native species, removing invasive plants, reducing pesticide use, conserving water, protecting water quality, and keeping birds safe.

The US Nation Resources Conservation Service is another great resource. And to find out how you can create a certified wildlife habitat—whether you have a balcony or 20 acres—visit the National Wildlife Federation.