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.