Water Features for Wildlife: A Guide

Providing a habitat for wildlife in your garden can be one of the most rewarding things you can do as a homeowner.

In addition to the environmental benefits, having wildlife in your yard can be both educational and entertaining.

One way to attract a variety of birds and other creatures is by installing a water feature.

In this blog post, I will guide you through the process of choosing, installing, and maintaining a water feature to attract wildlife in your garden.

So, let’s get started!

Types of Water Features

Water features can come in many different forms, but the most common types are natural ponds, artificial ponds, and water fountains. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and which one you choose will depend on your specific needs and preferences.

Natural ponds are the most natural and visually appealing option. They provide a habitat for a variety of animals and plants and are generally low-maintenance. On the downside, they require more space and can be more difficult to install than other types. If you do decide to go with a natural pond, you will need to excavate an area, line it with a waterproof liner, and provide a circulation system to keep the water clean.

Artificial ponds are designed to mimic the appearance and function of a natural pond while being easier to install and maintain. They can be made from various materials such as fiberglass, plastic, or concrete. The main advantage of an artificial pond is that it can be customized to fit any size or shape of yard. However, artificial ponds are often more expensive than other types, and may not attract as much wildlife as natural ponds.

Water fountains are an excellent option if you have limited space or are on a tight budget. They are easy to install and are available in a wide range of styles and sizes, so you can find one that fits your specific needs. On the downside, water fountains do not provide as much habitat for wildlife as ponds, and they are generally less visually appealing.

No matter which type of water feature you choose, it’s important to plan carefully and consider all the pros and cons before making a final decision. By taking your time and doing your research, you can find the perfect water feature for your yard that will provide you with years of enjoyment and attract a variety of wildlife.

Choosing the Right Location

Choosing the right location for your water feature is crucial for its success. Here are some factors to consider:

Sun Exposure

Ideally, your water feature should receive at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. This will ensure that any water plants you add will thrive. However, if your yard has a lot of trees or other shade-giving features, you should consider an alternative water feature that doesn’t rely on direct sunlight.

Proximity to Trees

While having trees nearby has many benefits, such as providing shade and shelter, they also drop leaves and twigs which can clog up the water feature. Make sure that your water feature is far enough away from trees to prevent this from happening.


Choose a location that makes it easy for you to maintain and clean your water feature. If it’s too hard to reach, you may not keep up with regular maintenance, which can cause problems down the line.


Consider how easy it will be to maintain your water feature before choosing a location. For example, if you live in an area with harsh winters, you may want to choose a location that allows you to easily drain and store any equipment before the first frost. If you choose a natural pond, it will require regular maintenance, including adding beneficial bacteria, testing the water quality, and making sure that the plants are healthy.

Attracting Wildlife with Plants

Choosing the right plants for your water feature is crucial to attracting wildlife to your yard. Here are three types of plants that you should consider adding to your water feature:

Native Plants

Native plants are a great way to attract native wildlife to your water feature. These plants are adapted to the local climate and are often more resilient than non-native species. In addition, native plants can provide food and shelter for various species of birds, butterflies, and other animals.

Water Plants

Water plants are a fantastic addition to any water feature. They provide cover for fish and other aquatic animals, and they also help to oxygenate the water and prevent algae growth. Some common water plants to consider adding to your water feature include water lilies, duckweed, and cattails.

Bog Plants

Bog plants are another excellent option for your water feature. These plants thrive in wet, marshy areas and can provide cover and food for a variety of birds, insects, and other wildlife. Some common bog plants include pitcher plants, sundews, and butterworts.

When choosing plants for your water feature, it’s essential to consider the needs of the different species you want to attract. Plant variety is essential, as different species of wildlife require different types of plants for food and shelter. By adding a variety of native, water, and bog plants to your water feature, you can create a diverse and thriving ecosystem that will attract a variety of wildlife to your yard.

Providing Shelter and Habitat

Wildlife needs more than just water to survive, they also need shelter and a safe place to call home. Here are some easy ways to provide both:

If you have any larger rocks or logs in your yard be sure to keep them instead of disposing of them. Wildlife such as rabbits and small mammals can make their homes under these safe natural shelters. Birds like to stand on them as well to observe and look for predators.

Another great way to provide shelter is by using birdhouses and nesting boxes. A birdhouse should imitate a natural cavity that would be found in a tree or cavity. Different types of birds require different sizes of houses and holes. For example, bluebirds need a hole with a 1.5-inch diameter, whereas chickadees need a 1 1/8-inch hole. Nesting boxes are made for birds that live in colonies and need to nest close to each other.

Providing nesting boxes or birdhouses in the vicinity of your water feature provides the birds with both their shelter and water. You could make nesting boxes and birdhouses by yourself using scrap lumber or polystyrene coolers.

Lastly, you could allow some wildflowers or old twigs to grow here and there in addition to the shelter. These don’t only provide nesting spaces for birds but help the chrysalis of butterflies to attach themselves.

These actions can make your yard an ideal wildlife habitat, and it all starts with the basics; shelter.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Maintaining your water features is essential to keeping them healthy and safe for wildlife. Here are some tips to help keep your water feature clean and functioning properly:

  • Pond Skimmers and Filters: By installing a pond skimmer and a filter in your water feature, you can greatly reduce the amount of debris and contaminants that build up in the water. Pond skimmers remove leaves, twigs, and other large debris from the surface of the water, while filters remove smaller particles and pollutants.

  • Algae Control: Algae growth is a common problem in water features, but there are several methods for controlling it. One effective option is to add barley straw to the water, which releases a natural chemical that inhibits algae growth. Another option is to use an algaecide, but be aware that some of these products can harm wildlife if used improperly.

  • Winterization: If you live in an area with cold winters, it’s important to winterize your water feature to prevent damage. You can do this by draining the water and removing any pump or filtration equipment, or by using a special heater designed to keep the water moving and prevent ice from forming.

By following these simple maintenance tips, you can keep your water feature clean and healthy for years to come, providing a safe and natural oasis for wildlife in your own backyard.

Safety Tips

Water features, while beautiful and attractive to wildlife, can also pose some safety hazards if not managed properly. In order to ensure the safety of wildlife and humans, it is important to take certain precautions.

Preventing Drowning Hazards

Drowning is a major concern when it comes to water features. To prevent drowning, it is important to make sure that the water feature is shallow enough for wildlife to access easily but not deep enough for them to get trapped in. Installing a gradual slope in the water feature can help create a safe entry and exit point for the creatures.

Managing Mosquitoes and Other Pests

Water features can also attract mosquitoes and other pests. To prevent this, it is important to treat the water with appropriate mosquito control products and to remove any standing water around the feature where pests can breed.

Securing the Area

Finally, it is important to secure the area around the water feature to prevent both wildlife and humans from accidentally falling in. You can install a fence or barrier around the water feature to keep animals and young children away from the water. Additionally, make sure to monitor the water feature regularly to ensure that it remains safe and secure.

By taking these safety measures, you can ensure that your water feature remains a beautiful and enjoyable addition to your garden while also keeping both wildlife and humans safe.

Enjoying Water Features with Wildlife

Have you ever found yourself fascinated by the sight of a bird taking a bath in a pond or a butterfly sipping nectar from a water fountain? By creating a water feature in your yard, you’ll be able to witness these delightful interactions between wildlife and water, and enjoy the calming sound of water as well.

Observing Wildlife

One of the most enjoyable aspects of having a water feature in your yard is being able to observe the wildlife that it attracts. You can enjoy watching birds, butterflies, and other creatures as they drink, bathe, and frolic in and around the water feature. With patience and a little bit of luck, you might even be able to spot some less common visitors, such as dragonflies, frogs, or even bats at dusk.

Photography Opportunities

If you have an interest in nature photography, a water feature can be an excellent subject. Birds, butterflies, and other creatures often linger around the water feature, providing you with ample opportunities to capture stunning close-up pictures. With the right equipment and some patience, you can take pictures that highlight the beauty and diversity of the wildlife in your own backyard.

Educational and Learning Opportunities

Installing a water feature provides a unique opportunity to learn about the environment and ecosystem around us. You can learn about the different types of wildlife that your water feature attracts, and how they interact with the water feature and the surrounding habitat. For example, you might learn about the relationship between insect pollinators and plants, or how different bird species use water for drinking and grooming. By taking the time to observe and learn, you can deepen your appreciation for the natural world and become a better steward of your own backyard habitat.

So don’t hesitate to create your own water feature, and start enjoying the wonders of nature that it brings to your yard!

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, water features are an excellent way to attract wildlife to your yard and make your outdoor space more enjoyable.

I hope that this guide has been helpful in giving you an overview of the different types of water features, how to choose the right location, attract wildlife with plants, provide shelter and habitat and also how to maintain them.

Now I would love to hear from you!

What kind of water feature are you most excited to try?

Leave me a message and let me know.

If you found this guide helpful, please share it with your friends on social media so that they too can create beautiful and functional spaces in their own backyards.

Author: Scott Sanders


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