Downy Woodpecker

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, bedtime gets pushed back 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 reverse this trend, and is offering the opportunity to designate your backyard as a Certified Wildlife Habitat in order to do so. Becoming a Certified Wildlife Habitat sounds quite official and complicated, but it’s actually pretty simple.

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:

  • Food sources, like native plants, seeds, fruits, nuts, berries and nectar
  • Water sources, 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, like use of native plants and no or limited use of chemicals

So, if you’ve got a backyard with a bird feeder providing native seeds, a small birdbath, some mature trees and dense shrubs (and you also avoid the use of pesticides), you’ve got yourself a Certified Wildlife Habitat!

Going through this process earns you far more than bragging rights or 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, animals and birds being slowly forced from their homes due to relentless 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 natural wildlife a safe space where they can go to be nourished, raise their young and rest. Don’t we all deserve that?

Feature image courtesy of Evangelio Gonzalez

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.