Department of Environmental Conservation

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Attracting Wildlife to Your Yard

Make your yard more inviting to wildlife and more beautiful too.

A monarch butterfly on a milkweed plant
The monarch butterfly is attracted to
the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
found in fields and open meadows

You don't need acres of land or even a large yard to make your property a place that wildlife will be attracted to. Decide what you'd like to see and learn about the needs and preferred habitat of that species. Be aware that by creating wildlife habitat you may attract different 'visitors' in addition to the ones you had anticipated.

  • Turn a portion of your lawn into a wildflower meadow. Eliminate existing lawn without using herbicides by repeated tilling. Let the grass and weeds germinate, then till again. Seed directly in the spring or fall with a mix of local wildflowers and grasses or jump-start your meadow and use plugs (young plants) in the spring. New meadows will need to be mowed when 4"-6" tall several times during the first year to keep annual weeds from shading out the young perennials. Meadows attract birds and butterflies.
  • Plant a mixed hedgerow of native berries, fruiting shrubs, evergreens, small trees and tall perennials. The hedgerow can screen an undesirable view, provide privacy and add beauty to your yard while benefiting wildlife. Some suggested species: highbush blueberries, small fruited crab apples, Shadblow or Serviceberry, American Cranberry Bush, Bayberry, Elderberry, Eastern Red Cedar, hollies and other dense evergreens and shrub roses (do NOT use multiflora rose). This diverse planting can also be located at the edge of the woods and form a natural and wildlife-friendly transition from lawn to forest. DEC's Saratoga tree nursery sells wildlife species mixtures.
  • Provide water for birds, insects and other species. Water is essential to all creatures and especially valuable in winter when natural sources may be frozen. Try a bird bath, a carved depression in a rock or a mini-pond in a basin. Birds prefer shallow water so keep depth 3" or less. Rocks sticking out from the water will provide a place for birds or butterflies to perch. A "beach" of sand or pebbles makes a small pond more accessible to many species.