Austin, Texas is #1 for Wildlife! Do You Have a Wildlife-Friendly Yard?

Did you know that Austin was recently named the number one city in the country for wildlife habitat? The National Wildlife Federation recently ranked America’s largest cities based on three important factors for wildlife habitat – the percentage of parkland in each city, citizen action to create wildlife habitat, and school adoption of outdoor learning in wildlife gardens.

Here’s why they chose Austin, Texas to be number 1:

“Austin is a clear-cut choice as America’s best city for wildlife, boasting the most Certified Wildlife Habitats (2,154), most Certified Wildlife Habitats per capita, and most Schoolyard Habitats (67). Famous for its Congress Avenue Bridge that’s home to 1.5 million bats, the city of Austin is certified as a Community Wildlife Habitat. Its residents not only want to Keep Austin Weird – they’re the best in America at keeping their city wild.”

Congratulations to all of us, and especially those of you who have put in the effort to create wildlife habitat and get your habitat certified with the National Wildlife Federation!

Why Should I Create a NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat?

*It’s fun! Watching wildlife in action can be fun and relaxing for everyone. Your habitat may attract beautiful songbirds, butterflies, frogs, and other interesting wildlife for viewing from your very own window.

*Curb appeal! Replacing grass lawns with native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees will increase the beauty of your property and provide a nurturing refuge for wildlife.

*Save money! Save a surprising amount of money on water and yard maintenance bills by getting rid of your lawn and installing drought-tolerant native plants.

*Give wildlife a home! Restoring habitats where commercial and residential development have degraded natural ecosystems can be your way of giving back to wildlife.

*Eco-friendly! Gardening practices that help wildlife, like reducing the use of chemicals, conserving energy and water, and composting also help to improve air, water and soil quality. Your yard will sequester carbon and reduce the need for air-polluting maintenance practices, such as lawn mowing, through the use of native plants. You can also improve area water quality by reducing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

*Community! Gardening for wildlife can help you share your love of wildlife with your neighbors and help them get involved in creating a home for wildlife. Help people deepen their understanding of nature and increase their connection to the outdoor world.

How can I create a backyard wildlife habitat? Creating a Wildlife Habitat Is As Easy As 1, 2, 3, 4! Providing these habitat elements is all you need to create habitat for wildlife today:

FOOD — Native plants provide wildlife with a buffet of nectar, pollen, nuts, seeds, berries and more. Plant diversity increases the number of species found in your habitat.

WATER — A reliable water source is a key element for a variety of wildlife. Animals need water for drinking and some need it for breeding.

COVER — Evergreen shrubs and stacked rock walls are two ways to offer wildlife shelter from predators and bad weather. Layers of vegetation also ensure safe places for critters.

PLACES TO RAISE YOUNG — Dense shrubs, a nesting box or pond are examples of places wildlife need to mate and raise their young.

Wildlife Austin also encourages:

SUSTAINABLE GARDENING PRACTICES – How you manage your garden can have an effect on the health of the world around you. Techniques like capturing rain water, xeriscaping, mulching, avoiding pesticides, and composting are just a few examples of how you can make your garden conservation-savvy!

What can I do if I live in an area near a preserve, creek, park, or other wildlife corridor?

Just as you want to be a good neighbor to your human neighbors, please be considerate to your nearby wildlife! Reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides and herbicides on your lawn and other natural areas, and provide a more welcoming “connecting spot” for wildlife to stop to grab a bite and a drink and enjoy your hospitality, before moving on!

What resources are there for me to use?

Consider landscaping with native and adapted plants found in the City of Austin’s Grow Green Guide. Native plants need less water, are more drought tolerant than other species not as suited for Central Texas, and provide better food sources and habitat for our native wildlife.

Please see our Wildlife Austin Resources page for more information: https://austintexas.gov/department/wildlife-austin. Also, Wildlife Austin is here to help! Please them at wildlife@austintexas.gov or 512-974-9454 to receive a pre-paid application via mail to certify your wildlife habitat with National Wildlife Federation.

Happy spring planting, and Keep Austin Wild!

This information was provided by Meredith Gray, a Conservation Program Coordinator with the Wildlife Austin program through the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department. Photo credit to Jim and Lynne Weber who won first place in the National Wildlife Week Photo Contest.