You can cultivate biodiversity in your own backyard!

Cover Photo Credit: Ann Brokelman, TWC

By Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests (LEAF) and Toronto Wildlife Centre (TWC)

Looking for a way to make a difference locally? Look no further than your own backyard! Enhancing your #BackyardBiodiversity has many benefits to you, native plant species, and local wildlife! Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests (LEAF) and Toronto Wildlife Centre (TWC) have teamed up with the support of Ontario Power Generation to provide you with some helpful tips on how to keep plants and animals safe and happy in your backyard.

Photo Credit: Toronto Wildlife Centre

Plant a garden that both you and wildlife can enjoy! Depending on the type and size of plants you’d like to have in your backyard, you can curate your garden to attract pollinators, songbirds or larger wildlife species. Common snowberry is great for attracting bees, who will in turn pollinate other plants and contribute to the diversity of your garden. Black eyed susans provide food to birds, while red osier dogwood provides them with shelter. Edible shrubs, like the pasture rose or American hazelnut provide a food source for passing wildlife.

When you water your plants, provide water for wildlife too. Filling up your birdbath or a simple bucket provides freshwater for squirrels and birds, who use the water to cool off in the hot summer months. If you think you’ll forget, or you’ll be away for an extended period of time, consider planting a cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum). This plant catches rainwater, providing a natural fresh water source for birds. Natural sources of water are key, as you want to avoid automated sprinkler systems in your yard, because they can hurt or kill bees. Bees rely on their senses to know when rain is coming so that they can take shelter before it hits. Sprinklers have no warning signs, and they blur the bees’ vision, making it impossible for them to find shelter.

Keep all our native species– pollinators, plants and animals alike– safe. Just as you wouldn’t knowingly introduce an invasive plant species to a native environment, you shouldn’t introduce an invasive feline predator either. If you have a cat, keep it indoors, in a safe enclosure, or on a leash. Cats are the number one cause of injury to baby birds. Native species have not developed natural defenses to domestic cats, and so are often completely susceptible to attacks. Your cat is also more likely to live longer if you keep it indoors, avoiding risks like parasites, vehicles and attacks from larger animals.

Photo Credit: Ann Brokelman

If you want to give birds and bats a fighting chance at thriving in your backyard, there are things you can do besides keeping your cat indoors! Consider adding a bat or bird house to your backyard. The ideal time to install one is in the late fall or the winter. This will ensure that it’s available for bats that have been in hibernation locally come spring, or for birds during breeding season. Different bird species require varying habitats from thick brushy wooded areas, to open grass lands. Bats need solar exposure and easy access to their house, two qualities which are best achieved on a free-standing pole in the most appropriate place for the species rather than on a tree.  This protects your trees from damaging nails or bindings, and keeps bats and birds safe and happy.

If you want more information on what you can do to increase your #BackyardBiodiversity , visit LEAF or TWC online, and read our Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter fact sheets. We’ll be posting tips on our social media channels weekly, and we encourage you to engage with us by using #BackyardBiodiversity. We’ll also be publishing blogs throughout the summer through LEAF News and the TWC Newsletter.

Toronto Wildlife Centre is a charitable wildlife rescue organization providing medical treatment and rehabilitative care to sick, injured and orphaned wild animals found by members of the public. Learn more at

LEAF is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection and improvement of the urban forest by engaging citizens in urban forest stewardship including planting, education and training. Learn more at

Ontario Power Generation is committed to being a leader and innovator in advancing biodiversity education and protection by working with partners across Ontario. Learn more at

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