All animals need some form of shelter in their habitat. Many species use
shrubs and trees for protection from predators as well as the weather. Birds,
squirrels, and many other animals seek nesting sites in trees and bushes. For
ground inhabiting animals, shelter can be enhanced easily in many backyards.
You can provide shelter in your yard in several ways.
Plant a variety of shrubs, trees, and herbaceous plants. Some species of
birds may find these attractive as nesting sites. Even if the birds you see
in your yard prefer more secluded sites for nesting, trees and shrubs will
encourage them to visit your yard--even if for only a few minutes. Placed
near birdfeeders, trees become a convenient place for many species to eat
their seeds and offer protection from the weather and neighborhood cats. A
large evergreen can be especially attractive as shelter in the winter for
many species. Low growing plants will provide protection for small animals
such as rabbits.
Provide shelter for ground dwelling species--such as toads and
chipmunks--with small piles of rocks, branches, or a decaying log or stump.
A piece of drain tile or other tubular material can provide protection from
predators and the weather.
Birdhouses may provide alternative nesting sites for some species. Before
placing a birdhouse in your yard, determine what kind of bird you want as a
tenant. Birds have specific requirements for the type of house and the size
of the entry hole they will use. If the species you want doesn’t like the
house you select, a less desirable species may move in. Also, make sure the
house is the specified height above the ground and offers access to
vegetation and water.
Provide the creatures with building materials. While the nest form is
unique to each species, the materials used to build it will vary with what
materials are available locally. Suitable nest building materials for a
variety of species include 8 to 10 inch lengths of string, yarn, strips of
cloth, or thread. Cotton, wool, excess hair from your cat or dog, dried
grass, and dried sphagnum or Spanish moss also may be helpful.
For more information on wildlife habitat and other Backyard
Conservation practices, contact your local conservation district or the Natural
Resources Conservation Service. Or call 1-888-LANDCARE (toll free) for a free
colorful Backyard Conservation booklet and tip sheets.