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Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary

A bald eagle soars over a high bluff surveying the waters and tidelands of Puget Sound. Red-tailed hawks with outstretched wings drift effortlessly over forests, open fields, and family gardens. The morning dew highlights fragile spider webs at the forest edge. Close your eyes to better hear the silence that is sparkled with the voices of birds. Opened eyes are touched by soft contours of green blanketed in fresh air. This is Washington State - a great place to live.

But there is another reality at hand, a harsher reality that comes to us daily in news reports from all parts of the planet. Depleted ozone in the atmosphere. Increased ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Loss of the great tropical rain forests. Greenhouse effects. Acid rain. Rising sea levels and advancing deserts. Vast extinctions of wildlife.

Conscientious citizens care about these global environmental problems. But sometimes they loom so vast and complex that the efforts of a single individual may seem futile. What positive steps can one person take that will result in measurable differences in the quality of our environment?

Many species of Pacific Northwest wildlife share our living space. While many of us may not realize it, a property owner is also a habitat manager. The things we do, or do not do, in the vicinity of our home have an effect on the quality of habitat for dozens of wildlife species.

The Department of Wildlife wants to help you understand and appreciate the many species of wildlife in the vicinity of your home. The Department can help you make your property a better place for songbirds and other wildlife species that have lived in Puget Sound long before people began to settle here.

Write to the Department of Wildlife and ask for their Backyard Sanctuary Packet. It contains information that will help you become a better habitat manager on your own property. You will also have the opportunity to register your yard as an official backyard wildlife sanctuary. The address to write is:

Department of Wildlife
16018 Mill Creek Boulevard
Mill Creek, WA 98012

Good environmental stewardship begins in our own backyards.

The Backyard Sanctuary Packet contains:

  1. A list of plants to attract birds. Learn about the sun, soil, and water requirements and attractive features of each plant to help you decide which are best for your landscape...
  2. How to best feed birds. Including the right kinds of seeds and feeders...
  3. The kinds of birds most commonly found in your backyard at different times of the year along with natural history information for each bird...
  4. Tips for attracting hummingbirds, including the right plants and the proper use of feeders...
  5. How to design and make bird houses for wrens, chickadees, and other cavity-nesting birds...
  6. A list of references for more information on feeding, housing, landscaping, and other activities devoted to your backyard sanctuary...
  7. An application form to enroll your yard as an official backyard sanctuary. When you enroll, you will receive an outdoor sign, a signed certificate, and an order form for two full-color posters of Washington's most common backyard birds.
  8. Want to make your property better for wildlife? Consider these suggestions:
  9. Plant more trees and shrubs. Remember: vegetation is the key to attracting a diversity of wildlife. Dead trees (snags) are especially valuable to wildlife; try to keep them on your property if they pose no safety hazard.
  10. Add a birdbath or other source of water. A safe place to bathe and drink will act as a magnet to many animals.
  11. Add bird feeders. A feeder for millet, one for sunflower seeds, and one for suet will appeal to a wide variety of birds.
  12. Add a bird house. Cavity-nesting birds have been especially hurt by urban development. A bird house of the proper dimensions can help to replace the snags where these birds used to nest.
  13. Cover any openings under the eaves or other places around your house where house sparrows and starlings may be nesting. These non-native birds are undesirable competitors for food and nesting cavities and many native birds have suffered because of their presence. Bird houses and feeders should be designed and managed to reduce their use by sparrows and starlings.
  14. Cats that may be prowling around your sanctuary. They can be especially harmful to birds that feed or nest on the ground.
  15. Your neighbors interested in backyard wildlife. Several adjacent yards with good wildlife resources will do much better than a single yard. Most wildlife species need areas larger than a single lot can provide. Remember, every homeowner is a habitat manager, and the collective actions of conscientious homeowners will benefit the wildlife that share your living space.