Guelph, Ontario

The Bird-Friendly Backyard

 Want to get your family outdoors this season to work on a meaningful project together? Create a Backyard Wildlife Habitat as defined by the National Wildlife Federation! Wild Birds Unlimited proudly sponsors this program and can help you accomplish your goal.

Any size of backyard will do. Provide just four basic elements: food, water, cover or shelter, and places to raise young. Once you've done that, apply to the NWF and join the others across North America who have certified their backyards.

To get started follow these steps:

1. Assess your yard;

2. Create sources of food, water, cover and places to raise young;

3. Conserve resources by using mulch to preserve moisture, eliminating chemical use and using natural fertilizer.

Use our brochure on Creating a Wildlife Habitat to help you get started. Visit the NWF website to learn how to certify your yard. Stop by the store and chat with our Certified Birdfeeding Specialists about your project. We have books, products and idea to help you plan your backyard habitat!

Tips for Gardening for Wildlife

Use Native Plants

When planning your garden and landscape, consider using native plants in addition to a combination of habitat elements which provide food, cover and/or places to raise young. Plants native to the soil and climate of our particular area will provide the best overall food sources for wildlife. In addition, native plants generally require less fertilizer, water and effort to control pests. We have books, products and ideas to help you plan your backyard habitat.

Lawn Care that Cares for Birds

More and more people are becoming concerned about the use of chemicals on their lawns and how it can adversely affect birds and wildlife. Here are some common sense ideas for a healthier lawn without the use of excessive chemicals which can be harmful to the environment:

- Look for grass seed cultivars that are drought, disease and insect-resistant.

- Since excessive thatch causes lawn disease, yearly core aeration will improve air and moisture in the turf.

- Grubs are often cause for pesticide use, however, there are alternative solutions: turn off outdoor lights during adult beetle's flight time, and water the lawn less in August and September to reduce egg viability.

- Landscape portions of lawns for wildlife with bushes, trees or hummingbird and butterfly gardens - less lawn means less maintenance!

- You may not like these weeds in your yard, but the seeds of chickweed, ragweed, knotweed, pigweed, lamb’s quarters and crabgrass are some of the main natural seed sources used by many backyard birds like Juncos.Watch the Goldfinches in your yard eat up all the dandelion seeds!

The idea of a perfect lawn may be a thing of the past. A few weeds or insects is a small price to pay for better health to the people and the environment!

Don't Cut Down that Dead Tree

Unless that old tree is a threat to life or property, consider leaving it for wildlife. Birds such as chickadees, owls, bluebirds, wrens, woodpeckers and many others nest in holes and crevices of dead wood. Not only is does a snag provide shelter, but also food for birds such as woodpeckers, brown creepers, nuthatches and many more.

Create a Brush Pile

This is a great way to provide habitat for ground-loving birds, as well as offer some protection for all birds from weather and predators. Pile a bunch of dead branches or sticks near feeders or at the edges of your yard. Don't be afraid to make it too large! A brush pile should have lots of open spaces, and should not be mixed with any soft vegetation that will rot. Sprinkle some cracked corn or millet in and around the brush pile to encourage birds to feed in that area.

A Variety of Bugs = A Variety of Birds

Providing homes for insects may sound strange, but many insects are beneficial to your garden and play an important role in our backyard habitats. Bees, ladybird beetles, and praying mantids pollinate flowers and eat plant-harming insects; earthworms condition the soil. Invertebrates usually have no trouble finding a home in our yards and gardens, but we can help certain "good bugs" by providing man-made homes such as Mason Bees houses and ladybug houses, in addition to special plants.

Your birds play an important role in keeping "bad bugs" in check. Just one baby robin can eat 1000 insects in one day! Cardinals and wrens eat cicadas, and apids seem to be a favourite of the chichadees.

To learn more about nature in your habitat, stop in to see our many books and products for bird and nature gardening.

Recommended Resource

Stokes Bird Gardening Book

This is an excellent resource for advice, tips, and ideas on how to turn your backyard into a bird and wildlife-friendly place. The Stokes include four chapters on shrubs, trees, vines, and flowers which attract birds, as well as guiding you through planning a hummingbird garden. Full of ideas and suggestions, this book explores lawn alternatives, encouraging "good weeds" in your yard, how to provide water to attract wildlife and more.