In celebration of springtime, check out blog contributor Jane Marsh’s guide on how to create a safe, productive wildlife habitat in your own home and attract the local critters that live in your area. 

This is by no means a comprehensive guide, though Jane has compiled some great resources that can be more helpful to people in certain countries. Gardening and wildlife can be very different depending on where you are in the world, which is why we would like to invite you to send in your stories of creating wildlife sanctuaries where you live. 

Read on until the end of the article to learn more!

With concrete jungles covering more and more space in the modern world, various wildlife have endured an increasing spate of habitat loss. As a result, many species have had to adapt to urban living while others, such as the declining insect populations, are unable to adapt to humans encroaching on their territory

The actions and decisions we make about spaces around our homes can have a significant impact on ensuring these displaced animals have what they need to survive and raise their young. One way to do this is to enhance the natural features in your yards, gardens, and smaller outdoor spaces like balconies to create thriving ecosystems supporting wildlife conservation.

NWF-Certified Wildlife Habitat garden sign (Credit: Jennifer Wilber)

Government-supported Backyard Habitats

Over the years, wildlife gardening has become a crucial strategy to address biodiversity loss caused by urbanization.

Governments and private organizations have been helpful in this regard by providing support and resources for those looking to protect wildlife where they live.

In the US, Homeowners who participate in conservation efforts and create welcoming havens for local wildlife in their backyards can apply for certification from the National Wildlife Federation. Similarly, if you live in Canada you can apply for the Canadian Wildlife Federation certification.

If you live in the UK, the Wildlife Trusts provides guidance for wildlife gardening, and Australia supplies similar guidance for its citizens as well.

If you live outside these countries, you may also be able to find certifications or guidance on how to protect wildlife in your area through your local government’s website.

Designing Spaces to Meet Wildlife Needs

A thirsty Jackdaw enjoys a garden bird bath. (Credit: Kate R via Flickr)

The four basic wildlife needs are food, water, cover and space. Accounting for these requirements is essential to ensure a thriving ecosystem.


Every species has its own unique diet. The quality and variety of the food available will determine the kinds of wildlife that will flock to the yard. For instance, flowering plants provide nectar, seeds and fruits that attract various insects and birds. A good idea is to cultivate native plants as they’re easier to grow and can support local wildlife. If you don’t have a backyard or space in your backyard for native plants, adding feeders can also be a great way to care for wildlife. You can even look up what birds and other animals are native to your area and their diet so that you customize your feeders to your home.

Another key way to preserve food for wildlife is to leave a patch in your garden for grasses, weed, or wildflowers to grow. Even if you don’t have a large garden, a small patch can still help support a diverse habitat!


Water is essential to productive wildlife habitats. Natural sources like lakes and streams are best, but homeowners can also make do with bird baths, artificial ponds, and container water gardens. However, bird baths and ponds must provide good footing and be at most 3 inches deep so smaller animals can easily get out if they mistakenly fall in.

Wildlife Container Pond (Credit: Anna Williams via UK Wildlife Trusts)


Trees, shrubs and flowering plants provide wildlife with shelter from the elements and predators. Animals also need robust cover for nests and dens to care for their young. The shrubbery housing must be a natural part of the ecosystem and should ideally be tall enough to protect from predators. A good example is the Hicksii yew, which grows around 1 foot yearly and can thrive in full sun or shade.


The amount of space needed for a wildlife habitat varies with the species. For example, bats only need an artificial roost placed about 10 feet high and a few feet away from the nearest trees. Bats are particularly good to have in a backyard as they naturally feed on mosquitoes and other tiny pests. In some cases, animals may need a designated area detached from the other living areas in the yard, especially during and after birthing seasons.

Get Involved in Conserving Wildlife Habitats!

Creating and enhancing backyard habitats is an accessible and deeply rewarding way for you to effect positive environmental change. According to Matthew Shepherd, director of outreach and education at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in the US, a non-profit organisation that uses science to protect wildlife, insists that these small-scale actions matter. “We’re talking about small animals, so small areas do help.”

In short, carefully selecting plants, creating dedicated cover and engaging in collective conservation activities are the key to developing your outdoor spaces into sanctuaries for small animals and insects. Not only do you get to give back to nature, but you also get the bonus of being able to observe wildlife and natural behaviors right from your home!

What does wildlife gardening look like where you live? If you have a story to share about your journey in building urban sanctuaries (and the critters that have come to visit you) in the context of your culture, climate, and home, we’d love to hear about it! Visit our blog guidelines page and submit a pitch for your story here or via email at

(Featured image credit: Janet Tubb, Flickr)

Jane Marsh is an environmental writer who specializes in covering topics related to net zero and biophilic design. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, halfway between urban landscapes and multi-acre farms, the outdoors has always been a huge part of Jane's life. Currently, she works as the Editor-in-Chief of and contributes to sites like Renewable Energy Magazine,, and BOSS Magazine.