Backyard Wildlife

By following a simple recipe, anyone can attract birds, butterflies, and other wildlife to their backyard. Choose the right plants, add some water, manage with care and wildlife should find their way to your backyard habitat.

Start with native plants. They are already adapted to Nebraska’s climate and temperature, and the native wildlife here are already adapted to them. Remember that Nebraska’s rainfall and climate vary considerably from west to east, so choose native plants that are native to your part of Nebraska.

BACKYARDWILDLIFEHovorkaBirdBath2In the eastern part of the state, tallgrass prairie grasses like big bluestem, eastern gramagrass, Indiangrass, switchgrass, and tall dropseed work well with flowers like compass plant, goldenrod, Joe-pye weed, prairie blazing star, and purple prairie clover.

The mixed grass prairie region in central Nebraska is a great place for grasses like little bluestem, porcupine grass, prairie sandreed, sand bluestem, sand muhly, sideoats grama, and flowers like asters, bush morning-glory, lemon scurfpea, puccoons, purple prairie coneflower and sunflowers.

In the shortgrass prairie region in western Nebraska, try blue grama, buffalo grass, June grass, needle-and-thread grass, and western wheatgrass, combined with penstemon, prairie smoke, prairie phlox, soapweed (yucca), and cactus.

Be sure to include various types of milkweed to help Monarchs and other butterflies.

Shrubs like silver buffaloberry, juneberry, currant, red-twig dogwood, and cotoneaster will provide cover, and many shrubs will also produce berries and fruits. Black walnut, pawpaw, hickory, and bur oak are native to eastern Nebraska and grow well in the rest of the state in wetter areas along streams and lakes. Rocky Mountain juniper and ponderosa pine are native to western Nebraska.

Water for your habitat can be as simple as a bowl or dog dish, or as elaborate as a pond or waterfall. Ground-hugging critters will appreciate water at ground level, while a raised bird bath with help birds avoid neighborhood cats. A heated water source in the winter will help birds keep their feathers clean, which helps insulate them from the cold.

If you select a diverse mix of native plants, you should provide nectar, seeds, fruits and other food for wildlife. Bird and critter feeders can provide supplemental food, especially in the winter, and can give you endless hours of pleasure.

As you manage your yard and habitat area, remember that pesticides and herbicides are poison and can kill or sicken butterflies, bees, and other wildlife. Diversity is strength, in both your habitat area and your yard.

Once your backyard habitat is established, join the ranks of Certified Wildlife Habitats® through the National Wildlife Federation.

A reader has suggested a very helpful link to more information on backyard habitats. Check this out at https://www.angieslist.com/articles/creating-wildlife-habitat-your-backyard.htm .