Four Ways to Attract Birds and Butterflies

May is Garden for Wildlife Month! It’s the perfect time to make your yard or garden space more attractive to birds, butterflies and other local wildlife. All wildlife need four things to survive and thrive: natural sources of food, water, cover and places to reproduce and raise their young.

Once you provide these four habitat components and commit to maintaining your yard or garden in a natural way, the National Wildlife Federation will recognize it as a Certified Wildlife Habitat in our Garden for Wildlife program.

Here are four easy ways to provide the four habitat components to create a garden space that attracts birds, butterflies and all sorts of other wonderful “backyard wildlife” this month.

Native plants are the best and most natural way to provide food for wildlife. Here a hummingbird sips nectar and beebalm.

Plant Natives
Habitat Provided: FOOD
Native plants are the plant species that are naturally found in your region. They are adapted to the climate, weather, and soil types of their native region, so they generally thrive with little maintenance once established. Native plants also co-evolved with wildlife and provide food sources birds and butterflies need to survive, from berries, seeds and nuts to nectar and leaves for butterfly caterpillars to eat. By supporting caterpillars and other insects, native plants also provide a critical protein source for backyard birds, the majority of which must feed their babies insects. Many native plants are highly ornamental and look great.

Get a list of native plants for your zip code with our Native Plant Finder.

A birdbath is a simple way to offer life-sustaining water to birds and other wildlife.

Add a Birdbath
Habitat Provided: WATER
Birds and other wildlife need a clean source of drinking water. Birds also need to bathe in order to keep their feathers in good condition. A simple birdbath will do the trick. Birdbaths should be relatively shallow, no deeper than two to three inches. It’s important to regularly dump and refill with fresh water. This makes sure the birds have a clean water source and will also eliminate any mosquitoes. Clean your birdbath with hot soapy water and a scrub brush periodically.

Get a beautiful birdbath to provide water for birds.

Dead trees, fallen logs and brush piles offer cover for birds and other wildlife such as this red-spotted salamander in its juvenile red eft form.

Build a Brush Pile
Habitat Provided: COVER
Birds and other wildlife need sheltered places to get out of bad weather and to find cover from predators. In nature, dead and dying trees–called snags–and the branches and logs of fallen trees provide excellent cover for birds and butterflies. If you have a tree snag on your property, keep it if it poses no danger of falling and damaging your home. You can mimic this kind of natural habitat by building a brush pile using logs and tree branches to create a rough dome filled with hidden spaces for birds and other small wildlife to hide.

Get a step-by-step illustrated plan to build a brush pile in our new how-to book.

Nesting boxes mimic natural tree cavities and give birds such as this eastern bluebird places to raise their young.

Install a Nesting Box
Many species of birds nest in tree holes called cavities. As trees age, branches break and decay sets in, causing natural cavities to form. Woodpeckers also excavate their own cavities for nesting, which are then available to other birds in subsequent seasons. You can mimic this important nesting habitat by putting out a nesting box for birds such as bluebirds, wrens, chickadees, woodpeckers or even kestrels, owls and wood ducks!

Get a natural nesting box to help birds raise their young.

The National Wildlife Federation will recognize your yard or garden space as a Certified Wildlife Habitat.

Garden For Wildlife Month Certification and Sign Discount
Once you’ve created your wildlife habitat garden, get it recognized as a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. When you certify, you join our growing movement of people who are planting with a purpose to help wildlife (plus a lot of other great benefits).

In honor of Garden for Wildlife Month, we’re offering a special promotion. Receive 20% off your total when you certify and purchase any Certified Wildlife Habitat sign. This is a limited time offer available online only May 1- June 30, 2019.

Certify at and enter promo code GARDEN19.

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