Enjoying a snowy day on an evergreen

01 Nov Winterizing Your Yard for Wildlife

Winterizing your yard for wildlife is easy, but requires a little planning before the cold and snow arrive. Assess your backyard gardens to see how wildlife-friendly they are – or could be – with a little human help.  By providing food, water, cover, and places for wildlife to raise their young, backyard gardeners can make a difference, even during the cold winter months.

Vegetation provides winter food

The best way to offer winter food for wildlife is by planting vegetation that produces berries, nuts, or seeds. Some good choices would be viburnums, sumac, dogwood and winterberry. Forty eight species of birds and many small mammals eat winterberries. Seed heads can be left on perennials like coneflowers (echinacea)  and sunflowers to provide visual interest in the winter garden as well as food for wildlife. Sparrows, goldfinches and more eat the seeds of ragweed and native species like sunflowers, mints and thistles.

Bird feeders

Bird feeders see the most activity in winter when natural foods are scarce. High-calorie foods like black oil sunflower seeds and suet can provide enough energy to help birds through cold winter nights. Place feeders where they will be protected from the wind and are close to the house for easy viewing. Clean feeders periodically to protect birds from the spread of disease caused by moldy seed or seed contaminated by droppings.

Provide shelter

It is important to provide places where wildlife can find cover from predators and cold winter weather. Planting native evergreens, such as cedar, pine and holly can provide cover for numerous songbirds and small mammals. You can also install winter roosting boxes. Collect yard debris like branches, twigs, and fallen leaves to create cover for birds and small mammals, like rabbits, and at the same time offer a hibernation place for eastern box turtles, salamanders, and insects. Many butterflies will lay their eggs or overwinter as pupae in brush piles.


Water can be scarce for wildlife in winter when natural sources are frozen. While most creatures are seeking drinking water, birds are also looking for bathing water. Bathing helps birds  stay warm by keeping their insulating feathers in tip-top condition. Keeping your birdbath clean and free from ice will help birds and other creatures survive the winter. Heated birdbaths, which keep the water just warm enough to keep from freezing are also available.

Finally, winter is a great  time to plan ahead for next year. While planning your spring garden plantings, think about your winter wildlife garden. Look for areas to plant evergreens, berry producing shrubs and perennials like coneflowers . Plan on adding a birdbath or two or even a pond.

Winterizing your yard for wildlife not only helps nature, but provide enjoyment for you as well. More information can be found here.

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