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Want Wildlife in Your Yard? Just Add Water

A habitat is where an animal lives. So many different types of habitats exist in our world — forests, deserts, lakes and more. Even with their differences, they have similarities too. All habitats need to provide food, water and shelter. But not just any food, water and shelter. It needs to be the right kind for what lives there.

A sparrow at a birdbath.
(Photo via Shutterstock)

You can travel far and wide to visit different habitats, or you can just look at your own yard. Does it have the right kind of food, water and shelter for the wildlife you want to see? Maybe you have one or two of those things but are missing the others. Can you guess which one is usually missing from a backyard habitat? Water.


Water is important for a human habitat too. It’s so important that we have it flowing right into our homes through pipes. How do you use water? Animals use it for the same things, like drinking, cooling off and bathing.


Good news! Adding water is easier than you may think. Chances are you already have everything you need. And, no, not a shovel to start digging a big hole for a pond! A water source can be much smaller and simpler and still provide for wildlife.


All you need is something shallow that will hold water. Just 1 inch or 2 inches is plenty. In fact, you shouldn’t go deeper than 3 inches because then it starts to get too deep for our backyard birds.


Can you think of something that will work? Need a hint? Think about the things in your kitchen. An old pie plate, cake pan or pan will be perfect. You can even use the lid from a garbage can or the saucer from a planter. Make sure to choose something that you can easily lift, even when it’s full of water.

Five birds splashing in a birdbath.
(Photo via Shutterstock)

Now find a good spot for your water source. You can place it right on the ground. Just scoop out a bit of dirt, or make a base out of rocks, sticks or sand (whatever you have) so that it won’t wobble and spill.


Place a couple of bigger rocks or a chunk of wood inside. These will be great perches for insects and birds. The added weight will also keep it from tipping over if larger critters, like raccoons, lean in for a drink.


You did it! You made a water source! Now you need to take care of it. Make sure the water stays clean and fresh. Empty and refill it every day. Scrub it clean when it starts to get dirty.


If you want to get fancy, add a solar-powered fountain. Birds flying overhead will be drawn to the tinkling sound of bubbling water. Moving water also helps prevent muck from building up on the surface.


Make sure your water source doesn’t become a trap. Place it away from shrubs where predators can hide and wait for an unsuspecting visitor. We don’t want the robin stopping by for a drink to become a snack for a cat!


Try adding water to your backyard habitat to invite more wildlife to visit. Watch them at different times of the day to see who visits. Stop by Plum Creek Nature Center, Hidden Oaks Nature Center and Four Rivers Environmental Center to see their “backyard habitats” too. Then go outside and explore the natural habitats of the preserves for even more inspiration.

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