Texas Living

Calling All Critters: Creating Wildlife-Friendly Spaces

By Patrick Reardon 5.5.23

Spring brings sunny days, mellow temperatures, and bright flowers. When new life starts flourishing in nature, all Texans begin to head outdoors—human and animal Texans.

So, now that spring’s in full swing, we’ve rounded up the best tips for attracting backyard wildlife while keeping them (and your garden) safe.

backyard wildlife

Animalian Accommodations

Butterfly Gardens: If you’ve spotted monarchs, painted ladies, or swallowtails floating around your neighborhood, you can attract them by building a butterfly garden right in your yard. Find a sunny spot on your lawn where flowers and indigenous plants like milkweed and thistles will grow well. It won’t take long for butterflies to start visiting regularly. Consult our guide to creating a butterfly garden.

Bird B&Bs: Flocks of birds in your area are looking to build nests, lay eggs, and settle in for the spring. And since they’ll be hungry while they work, you can attract all types of birds to your yard with simple DIY bird feeders made from recycled bottles. Kids will also love stuffing a pine cone with peanut butter, rolling it in birdseed, and hanging it from a branch. The birds will love it, too! Learn how to make homemade bird feeders here, and then check out this guide for other ways to attract birds to your yard.

Hummingbird Havens: You may have already noticed hummingbirds zipping around your yard this spring. These little guys are searching for bright-colored, tube-shaped flowers that signal sweet nectar. You can curate a garden of nectar-laden flowers, such as petunias and trumpet creepers, to attract these spritely critters to your area. And because hummingbirds have great memories for the best feeding spots, come next spring, there’s a good chance they’ll swing back for more. Get our full guide to building a hummingbird garden.

Owl Houses: Who better to keep an eye on your yard at night than an owl? These wise old watchers will keep the number of rodents and pests down in your yard while also providing a pleasant ambiance on quiet spring evenings. Invite one to move into your yard by installing a homemade owl box. Check out our step-by-step guide to building a DIY owl box.

Bat Abodes: On first thought, you may not think bats would be the winged creatures you’d want living in your yard. The truth is that bats are an essential part of a thriving ecosystem, as their diet consists of pesky flying insects. In fact, brown bats gobble up thousands of mosquitoes each night. (Plus, they are absolutely adorable.) Make them feel welcome in your yard by building a bat box. Get the complete bat box blueprint.

Raising Creepy-Crawlies: Speaking of insects, there are a few little bugs that make great subjects to teach kids about the six-legged ecosystem that exists outdoors. There are all kinds of kits that your kids can use to watch butterflies, ants, and silkworms mature before releasing them into your yard. Dig into our kid-friendly guide on raising creepy-crawlies to get started.

Protecting Your Animal Neighbors (and Your Garden)

Safeguard Your Garden: Bunnies, squirrels, raccoons, and deer might be cute, but to Texas gardeners, they’re pesky diners and unwanted guests. There are safe ways to deter them from crashing your garden’s party, though, such as planting mint (a common deer repellant) or installing high-frequency sound emitters. Find some other safe ways to keep unwanted animals out of your yard.

Helping Baby Wildlife: Have you ever encountered an abandoned bird’s nest with eggs in it? Or a baby rabbit limping on your driveway? Most people aren’t aware of the right course of action to take when these unfortunate encounters happen. Oftentimes, humans who try to help abandoned, injured, or lost baby animalsmake the situation worse by interfering. Consult our guides on when it’s safe to move a bird’s nest and the pros and cons of helping baby wildlife so you’ll be prepared if the time comes.

The Truth About Opossums: Like bats, opossums are a commonly underappreciated nocturnal creature. But these misunderstood marsupials are anything but dangerous to humans and pets; they’re immune to most common diseases like rabies and Lyme disease and will do anything to avoid picking a fight. An opossum in your yard is usually just passing through, but on its way, it will clean up any cockroaches, rodents, beetles, snakes, or ticks around your house. Learn more about the benefits of opossums can bring to your yard.

Other Wildlife Myths: Did you know that you shouldn’t feed ducks bread? Or that touching toads won’t give you warts? These are just a couple of debunked myths about wildlife that more Texans ought to know. Learn six misconceptions about animals in Texas.

Are you wild for wildlife? Check out our complete guide to Texas wildlife spotting so you can, hopefully, see all kinds of cute critters wherever the wind takes you.

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