What Animals Might Live in Your Backyard?

diversity map

As the graph above illustrates, the greater the habitat diversity your property provides, the more types of wildlife will choose to be your neighbors. For the small property owner in Florida, increasing habitat diversity usually means replacing expansive, closely mowed lawns with creative landscaping. Even within a quarter-acre lot, habitats that provide variety in both form and height-lawns, meadows, hedges and shade trees-will attract a larger number and variety of birds than a quarter-acre lot with uniform plantings.
More than 1,200 kinds or species of animals live in Florida. In terms of wildlife, we are the third most diverse state in the nation! Of all this bewildering variety, which species can you expect to attract to your own backyard? It all depends on how well the habitat on your property duplicates the natural conditions under which the animals live in the wild.

Some animals, such as raccoons, opossums and mockingbirds, adapt well and live throughout Florida, but others are much more regional in occurrence. White- crowned pigeons and many other semitropical species are restricted to the Florida Keys, for example, and it's unlikely that you will ever find a yellow-breasted chat nesting south of Tallahassee. For more detailed information on the most common species of Florida wildlife, browse our sections on birds, mammals and reptiles and amphibians.

All wild creatures have unique requirements for food, water, cover and space, and they can only live where these needs can be satisfied. Together, these required elements make up an animal's habitat. The key to luring wildlife to your property is to provide the four basic components of their habitat: food, especially in its natural form; water to drink and bathe in; cover or shelter to escape from predators, rest and build nests; and space or territory in which to live and raise young. Birds and other animals usually live in the particular habitats or plant communities (pine flatwoods, tropical hardwood hammocks, etc.) that best meet their habitat needs. Most require, or will use, a diversity of habitat types at different times in their daily or seasonal cycles. You will attract the widest variety of wildlife to your land by using native plants to simulate small areas of nearby habitat types. The "edges" where these habitat types meet will probably be the most visited areas in your neighborhood.

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

A. FOOD: All animals get their energy for survival from plants or other animals. The ideal wildlife management plan uses natural vegetation to supply year-round food - from the earliest summer berries to fruits that persist through winter and spring (such as sweetgum, juniper and holly).

B. WATER: Fresh water is essential for all wildlife and is often the factor most limiting their presence on small properties. Spring and fall migrants are especially attracted to water during long flights. Frogs and salamanders require standing water to complete parts of their life cycles. frog
Ornate Chorus Frog
C. SPACE: All animals require a certain amount of space or "elbow room" to mate and rear their young. On a small lot you may be able to support many kinds of breeding birds or other animals, but perhaps only a pair or two of each. An animal's requirement for space may be substantially less if food, water and cover resources are concentrated.
D. COVER: Breeding, nesting, hiding, sleeping, feeding and traveling are just a few of the necessary functions in an animal's life which require protective cover or shelter. Often plants used for cover double as food sources. green anole
Green Anole

FWC Facts:
Wildlife viewing in Florida supports 44,623 full- and part-time jobs.

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