Attracting Birds, Butterflies, and Other Backyard Wildlife (book review)

“As much as 90% of North American insects that rely on plants can only survive on the native plants with which they evolved”. That is just one of the many facts in, the National Wildlife Federation’s new book, Attracting Birds, Butterflies, and Other Backyard Wildlife, Expanded Second Edition by David Mizejewski.

Released in April 2019, I bought the book immediately because I had the previous 2004 edition. I used the first book to create my backyard habitat garden and have my backyard certified as a Wildlife Habitat. I will be using the current edition to spruce up my habitat.


Each chapter explores an aspect of a backyard habitat such as food, water, cover, and places to raise young. The goal is to reconnect your land, garden to the larger surrounding ecosystem.

There is a strong emphasis on the ways in which native plants are crucial to the survival of indigenous animals and a healthy ecosystem. This emphasis on indigenous plants fits right in with my hardcore native plant advocacy.

Some of the fascinating facts about native plants.

Native plants:

  • can reduce the need for pesticides and fertilizers
  • take just a few weeks to one growing season to become established
  • if planted in the natural conditions require almost new maintenance once established
  • rarely require supplemental watering
  • non-native plants that don’t become invasive typically require supplemental watering, fertilizer, and pesticide applications to survive when planted in gardens and landscapes
  • only native plants provide the entire range of habitat benefits needed by native wildlife

Native plants are a key factor in establishing a wildlife habitat. Some of the facts about native insects:

  • 90% of native insects cannot complete their life cycles without native plants
  • native insects are an important food source that bird parents feed their young
  • in areas dominated by invasive by non-native plants, the local insects can decline
  • animals have adapted to the food and seasonal timing of regional native plants.


The information about indigenous plants and insects roles in the functioning of a healthy ecosystem is used when creating each aspect of a backyard habitat, food, water, cover, and places to raise young. there are tips on providing bird feeders.

And here is an important fact that answers concerns people have about feeding the birds. Only 25% of bird species will use a feeder. Birds will not become dependent on your bird feeder for their food. They will not stop foraging if you put out a feeder, but mammals will.


The book includes many do-it-yourself projects, checklists, and recipes. The recommended plants are useful only as much as a generalized list can work for an entire continent with diverse habitats. But those lists are still useful. Your local environmental centers, native plant nurseries, county extension services, and regionally focused books will have more specific information.

Blackpoll Warbler. Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren [CC BY 2.0 (]

If you would like to create a backyard habitat you can do no better than following the excellent advice in this book. And I saw a Blackpoll Warbler hopping from branch to branch in my Shadbush this afternoon!


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National Wildlife Federation Attracting Birds, Butterflies, and Other Backyard Wildlife, Expanded Second Edition by David Mizejewski is available in bookstores and online at,, and and on the NWF website.

National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Backyard Habitat Program

Further reading on indigenous plants and local ecosystems can be found in Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy

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  1. I really enjoyed the simplicity of how to make my garden thrive. Though I’m not adept to Evolutionism I share the authors care for little birds.

    • Hi, Gabriel
      Thank you for your comment. I am glad you received good tips. I am not a evolution “believer”. I think there is more to existence than what science can ever know.

    • You are more than welcome, David. Thanks for such a valuable resource.

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