Become a Wildlife Watcher

By observing patterns of growth and behavior, you can make your yard more inviting for animal visitors

  • NWF Staff
  • Dec 29, 2010

If you've never before listed your wildlife observations, winter is an ideal time to begin: Your yard is fairly quiet and your note-taking can get off to a comfortable, leisurely start.
Watching the comings and goings of wildlife visitors turns into an enjoyable and profitable game when you actually list the changes brought about by the seasons.

Make a chart and fasten it to a clipboard kept alongside your favorite wildlife-watching window or next to the door between your house and your yard.

You can put your notes in columns:

Numbers and names of species;
Date observed;
Time of day;
Place (which part of yard); and
Activity (feeding, digging, nesting, pecking at a dead tree, etc.).
You might like to set up a database on your computer for all of your information. This is a good way to keep track of unfolding patterns.

What to Watch?

Even though birds will be the most common visitors, you’ll want to note what goes on in the world of insects, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Your observations can even take in surrounding fields, woods and streets, if you like. (Large birds of prey or waterfowl may not enter your yard, but they may certainly be part of your personal world.)

Keeping notes and checking authoritative books for details about the species you observe lays the groundwork for identifying patterns of growth and behavior—revealing the needs of animal visitors. It may be a game, but it can also help make your yard a better place to welcome wildlife.

Share Your Observations With Us!

Download state-specific wildlife lists and add your sightings to our Wildlife Watch Map
Keep track on your smart phone with these WildObs apps
This article was adapted from The Backyard Naturalist by Craig Tufts. Copyright 1988 National Wildlife Federation.

Explore the Outdoors: NWF's Wildlife Watch Program 
View Noctural Wildlife: "Mother Nature's Late Show" 
Garden for Wildlife: NWF's Certified Wildlife Habitat Program
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