Backyard Habitat & Naturescaping

Creating backyard habitat is easy to do, but takes some planning and consideration.  There are 5 major things to consider when developing a backyard plan to attract wildlife.

Water Wise Lawn and Native Shrubs at Yamhill Heritage Center

YSWCD Riparian Planner, Josh Togstad, Helps at YSWCD Annual Native Plant Sale

Bees are Important Pollinators and Can be Very Sensitive to Pesticides (Photo: Mace Vaughan)

1. Native Plants

Native plants are adapted to our climate and are naturally resistant to many pests and diseases.  Also known as “naturescaping”, incorporating native plants into your backyard landscape can conserve water, provide preferred food and shelter to wildlife and lower you maintenance inputs

To learn more about native plants please visit the Oregon Flora Project or East Multnomah SWCD’s Native Plant Database for ideas for your backyard.

2. Invasive Weeds

Invasive weeds threaten the health of our natural areas.  They displace and compete with native vegetation.  Although many invasive weeds, live Himalayan blackberry, provide food and shelter to wildlife there are usually native plants that provide the same function but are unable to compete with invasive weeds.

To learn more about invasive weeds and alternatives pleases visit the Pacific Northwest Weed Management Handbook and Garden Smart Oregon: a Guide to non-invasive plants

3. Pesticide Reduction

Decreasing the use of pesticides increases the potential of attracting pollinators and beneficial insects to your backyard. 

Visit Portland Metro’s Grow Smart Grow Safe website for more information and alternatives to backyard herbicides and pesticides.  Pollinator resources from Xerces Society for the Pacific Northwest including pesticide guides.

4. Storm Water Management

When rain falls on impervious surfaces such as roofs and cement sidewalks or driveways, it can pick up pollutants such as pesticides, oils, metals and other chemicals (aka storm water run off).  If this water is allowed to naturally infiltrate or pass through vegetative buffers, we can reduce the amount of these pollutants that reach our natural waterways and streams.

5. Wildlife Stewardship

There are hundreds of species, especially migratory birds, that depend on the Willamette Valley ecosystem.  Oregon is ranked 5th in the nation for bird diversity and there are over 500 species of birds that use Oregon at some point in their lifecycle, over 200 of which spend some time in  the Willamette Valley. 

Shelter: By providing backyard habitat like bird boxes, bee boxes and bat houses you can provide essential shelter for wildlife.  Brush piles or “snags” can also provide cover or food sources for birds and wildlife.

Water : Bird baths or garden ponds can provide necessary sources of water for passing wildlife

Decreasing hazards: By moving feeders to either within 3 ft or at least 20 ft away from windows you can reduce the frequency of window strikes in birds.  Keeping cats indoors or using outdoor enclosures can also reduce hazards to backyard birds

For more:

Information on Bird Houses and Bee Boxes

OSU Extension information on Creating a Garden Pond for Wildlife

Audubon Society Portland has information on Protecting  Birds in your Backyard