Habitat Design Tips

Wildlife Habitat Design Guidelines

  1. Select plants that provide cover and food.
  2. Plant a variety of plant types; intersperse, creating a mixed stand.
  3. Plant in locations that form corridors or connections between different larger habitat plantings.
Image of a mallard

Erwin and Peggy Bauer, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bugwood.org
  1. Promote and plant woodland, grassland, riparian and wetland habitats.
  2. Create a number of each type of habitat so different habitat are adjacent, forming as many "edge" areas as possible.

Diversity is the Key

  • Plant a diverse selection of grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees that support the wildlife you want to manage.
  • Select a diverse range of varieties of each type of plant.
  • Have many sources of water.  Ponds, swamps, bogs and bird baths are all good sources of water for wildlife.  Place water sources in open and hidden locations.
  • Take advantage of the fact that many animals prefer the edge where two different types of habitats meet.  Form as much "Edge Effect" as you can.
Grassland Habitat Hints

Grasslands are made up of many grasses, legumes and forbs. Mix as many species of native grassland species as possible. Do not plant grasslands uniformly, but make them patchy to create a mosaic effect. Many animal species need a large unbroken prairie area. Maintain grasslands by eliminating any woody plants (especially cedars). Add water by forming small "prairie potholes" in low areas and incorporate a small clay seal in the soil of the lowest point. Allow piles of dead grasses and forbs to remain through the winter for overwintering cover. Control introduced and noxious weed species.

 Image of Redwing Blackbird
Terry L Spivey, Terry Spivey Photography, Bugwood.org
Woodland Habitat Hints

Mix evergreen, deciduous and shrub species and plant in random groupings.  Select species that provide food for wildlife, including forage, nuts, fruits and seeds.  Select plants that are different heights.  Some will give canopy habitat while others form lower habitat cover.  Allow dead trees to stand if they are in an area that is non-threatening to humans or property.  They provide nesting for many wildlife species.  Fallen trees also form good cover.  Snags or piles of brush are perfect overwintering sites.  Construct thick understory areas with thorny brambles to protect small animals from predators.  Create water sources by adding small woodland ponds in lowland areas.

Image of a goldfinch
Terry Spivey, USDA Forest Service,
Bugwood.org

Home Habitat Hints

Attracting birds to home landscapes is a popular way for residents to view a variety of species. To attract birds year-round, provide their three basic needs- cover, food, and water. Birdhouses and trees provide a place for nesting, while dense evergreens provide shelter from harsh weather and enemies. 

 

Bird feeders and a variety of landscape plantings provide food. Birdbaths, or other water sources, provide the final habitat component for good backyard habitat. Make sure to clean birdbaths and change the water on a daily basis in the summer to avoid mosquito problems and prevent avian diseases

Many acreage owners also like to encourage bats to take up residence on their property and help with mosquito control. Bat houses are simple to construct and can encourage bat residents on your property all year.

Wetland and Riparian Habitat Hints

True wetland or riparian habitats are very difficult to create where the natural components do not exist.  Where wetland habitats exist, protect them from draining and pollution.  Manage for natural wetland plants and prevent their destruction.  If a creek or stream transects the property, allow at least 50 feet on each side for a riparian habitat strip.  Plant trees and shrubs that provide food, cover and prevent erosion.  Many tree species are adapted to riparian locations.  Use riparian habitats to connect other types of habitats.  Consider trying to create wetlands as well as ponds.  Establish large shallow areas around ponds with cattails and wetland grass.