What is a Naturalist’s Garden or Backyard Habitat?

Great Spangled Fritillary on Echinacea purpurea in my garden
Great Spangled Fritillary on Echinacea purpurea in my garden.

I have what is called a naturalist’s garden or a backyard habitat.

It is easy to start a naturalist’s garden. You can take an inventory of your garden and replace plants one at a time, to those that attract native animals.

Or you can simply feed the birds from balconies and decks.

What is a Naturalist? (journal prompt)

Enjoying Your Naturalist’s Garden Backyard Habitat

My backyard habitat makes nature journaling in my own garden convenient and fascinating.

Sitting camouflaged in my garage, I watch the activity down at the feeders. Right now, over twenty House Sparrows, mostly females, perch on the stems and branches of the thicket at the end of the garden. After eating expensive hulled sunflower seeds, a bird will fly down to the water dish for a sip or two.

Imagine simply walking outside to sit and observe: butterflies laying eggs, a male House Sparrow feeding a chick or a small snake slithering through the grass. Then writing or drawing about it in your nature journal.

squirrel eating bird seed
Squirrel eating from the feeders in my garden. Photo by Donna L. Long.

Who Visits a Backyard Habitat?

My feeders have attracted birds to the garden that I didn’t even know were in the neighborhood.

Squirrels, Cabbage White butterflies, Monarchs, Eastern Garter Snakes, beetles, bees, etc. are all living and breeding in my little Philadelphia garden. I love going in my garden at midday and watching a giant Monarch butterfly drinking nectar from a Zinnia. I attract butterflies by planting both nectar and host plants.

And after many years I have finally been able to attract hummingbirds to my garden, planting Coral Honeysuckle Vine did the trick. You can also use a hummingbird nectar feeder.

birds_female ruby throated hummingbird
Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird at a feeder.

How To Create a Mini-Nature Preserve in Your Habitat Garden

My garden is only about 15 feet wide by 48 feet long, so don’t let size stop you. You can also create a mini-nature preserve where you live.

If you already feed the birds (and squirrels), adding a few choice plants and features can turn your garden into a wonderful place for animals to live and grow. The following pages will help you along the way.

To create a mini-nature preserve in your own garden all you need is:

Each page will give guidance and examples on planning and managing a mini-nature preserve. As time goes by you can develop your garden into a very well-planned, extensive and beautiful place to study and connect with nature.

Certified wildlife habitat sign in my backyard habitat

Certifying Your Backyard Habitat

The National Wildlife Federation also has a Certification Program. This program aims to establish wildlife and native plant friendly places across North America.

My garden was certified many years ago and I make sure I maintain its’ habitat features. The next step is A Backyard Habitat Garden: What You Need to Start One


I like walking into my garden and seeing butterflies sipping nectar at my flowers and birds eating seeds at the feeders. Attracting birds, hummingbirds, butterflies and other animals to your garden is a rewarding pastime.

I have learned about the life cycles and natural history of many animals and plants. And you can too right at home.

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