Rabbit: Sam Wharton

All living things need to eat to survive, so food sources are a critical component of wildlife habitat. Native plants form the foundation of the food chain in the natural world, and should do the same in your wildlife-friendly garden or landscape. Plants provide food to wildlife in a wide variety of ways, from berries to nuts to nectar and even the insects they support that feed other animals.

Even dead trees can provide food by attracting insects, mosses, lichens and fungi, this deadwood becomes a cafeteria for wildlife looking for a snack. Many species need different food at different stages in their life. Hummingbirds for example, need nectar and regular doses of protein from mosquitoes, spiders, thrips, gnats and other arthropods to round out their diet. Other birds only eat seeds, or fruit.

A thoughtful structured garden palette can provide year round wildlife food: spring and summer bloom for pollen and nectar and leafy host plants, followed by shrubs and trees that berry late fall and into winter. Delay deadheading seed laden stalks for continued food source and strategically place fallen branches or logs in the backs of garden beds or behind shrubs to encourage grubs and insects that birds, salamander and other wildlife rely on.

Bird feeders can supplement natural food sources offered by plant material, and be particularly helpful in winter months.

What food sources do I need to certify?

Your habitat needs three of the following types of plants or supplemental feeders:

Preparing your garden? View the checklist to ensure you have all the elements for wildlife. 

Find your element—purchase food elements from the National Wildlife Federation catalog.

Does your garden have all the elements to become a Certified Wildlife Habitat®? Certify today! 



Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. The National Wildlife Federation is on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

Learn More