hairy woodpecker perched on bird feeder

Most of us take great pleasure in being good hosts. When the game’s on, we bring out the beer and hot wings; for girls’ night, the wine starts flowing and we pull out the trashy rom-coms; when the neighborhood kids descend for sleepover time, we push back bedtime and dinner means pizza instead of vegetable pasta.

But what about being good hosts to the wildlife in our neighborhoods? If you’re like me, you haven’t given much thought to this beyond the occasional bird feeder, filled enthusiastically all fall and then abandoned by mid-winter.

Certified Wildlife

The National Wildlife Federation wants to help you be a good host to wildlife by certifying your backyard as a wildlife habitat. Turning your yard into a Certified Wildlife Habitat may sound complicated, but it’s actually pretty fun and easy.

Certified Wildlife Habitat sign
Once your backyard is certified, you can display this official sign. Photo: National Wildlife Federation

To obtain certification, just complete the form on this website showing examples of natural wildlife-sustaining characteristics in your yard. These fall into several different categories:

  • Natural food sources, like seeds, fruits, nuts, berries, and nectar
  • A water source, like a birdbath, pond, water garden, or stream
  • Cover, like a thicket, roosting box, brush pile, or mature trees
  • Places for wildlife to raise their young, like dense shrubs, vegetation, nesting boxes, or ponds
  • Sustainable gardening practices, like the use of native plants and no or limited use of chemicals

So, if you avoid pesticides and your yard offers a variety of native plants, a birdbath, some mature trees, dense shrubs, and maybe a birdhouse or bat box, you’re already ready to certify your habitat!

But if your yard is missing some of these elements, the National Wildlife Federation offers a variety of suggestions to help you get your habitat certification-ready.

Going through this process earns you far more than bragging rights or the title of “hostess with the mostest,” it earns you the satisfaction of doing a small part to restore a smidgen of the habitat lost to the plants and animals that are losing safe habitat due to relentless human overdevelopment and urban sprawl. Every habitat garden created makes a difference. And if you don’t have a backyard to work with, consider a balcony container garden or roadside green space.

Go ahead and do what you can to give wildlife a safe space where they can go to be nourished, raise their young, and rest. Don’t we all deserve that?

Originally published on March 7, 2017, this article was updated in April 2022.

By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.