Create or Restore Backyard Habitats

The tremendous population growth in Florida brought widespread destruction of our native habitats.  In the Florida Keys, few large areas of natural habitats remain outside of state or federally-protected parks and refuges. Homeowners can help by creating a natural backyard, which will eliminate excess water and fertilizer use, and provide birds and other wildlife a much-needed oasis.

Here are a few tips to get your started:

  • Re-establish plants along the water’s edge, such as mangroves and buttonwood, to provide sediment stabilization and runoff filtration.  Minimally trim existing plants by the water.
  • Remove invasive exotic species that crowd out native plants.
  • Pick up pet waste regularly.  Rain washes waste into the same waters we fish and swim in, creating water quality problems.
  • Don’t fill in wetlands or areas with low wet spots. They provide valuable habitat.
  • Plant native plants which are drought tolerant and do not require excess watering or fertilizer use. 
  • Leave dead trees and branches if possible.  They provide critical bird nesting and foraging habitat.
  • Group smaller native trees, shrubs and groundcovers around the taller trees to create an understory. Establish diverse heights and densities to satisfy the nesting and cover requirements of various animals.
  • Avoid using pesticides that may kill birds and other wildlife. Research alternative pest control techniques.
  • Learn Keys-specific landscaping tips and how to identify problematic invasive insect pests.
  • Provide a fresh water source such as a birdbath.  Change water daily to eliminate mosquito larvae.
  • Visit Audubon at Home for additional ideas.

    Tips were adapted from Protecting Paradise: 300 Ways to Protect Florida’s Environment, with permission from authors Margaret Spontak and Peggy Cavanaugh.


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