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July 27, 2012

Stop, Look, and Listen to Your Wild Neighbors

You'll be amazed at the critters and creatures that live in the world just outside your door

The Humane Society fo the United States


  • Chipmunks are little darlings of the urban wildlife world. Kathy Milani/The HSUS


  • Hear the strumming of a loose banjo string? It’s probably the croak of a green frog. Janet Snyder/The HSUS


  • Thick vegetation made this berry-dining box turtle not so easy to see. Janet Snyder/The HSUS


  • Tree squirrels are always a treat to observe. Kathryn Kullberg/The HSUS

The world outside your door is filled with things that buzz, tweet, squawk, flutter, scurry, build, burrow, hoot, chase, pounce, and soar. It’s fun, free, available 24/7, and there’s always something new!

Just step outside and…

What can you do with 5 or 10 minutes?

  • Listen to the wild voices you hear. Depending upon the season and time of day or night, you may hear insects buzzing, amphibians chorusing, birds calling, singing, or drumming, or mammals making a whole range of entertaining sounds.
  • Watch your wild neighbors while they work, eat, and play—birds gathering nesting material, feeding on berries or insects, or enjoying a splash in your birdbath; butterflies and bees sipping nectar from flowers; squirrels storing nuts, gathering leaves as lining for their nests, or having a good chase!
  • Feel nature first-hand—capture a silky milkweed seed on the wind or a “whirlybird” maple seed twirling to the grass below; gather a few pinecones, nuts, or leaves in your hands, or compare the bark textures of different trees.

What can you do with 30 or 40 minutes?

  • Identify! Try to get a good look at the creatures making the wonderful wild sounds you hear outside. Then, check out a few field guides, CDs, or websites to identify some of the species and learn more about them. Have a little fun trying to make similar sounds!
  • Discover! Take time to watch the butterflies, moths, bees, bats, birds, chipmunks, rabbits, squirrels, and other creatures in your yard. Soon, you’ll see the way they fit into the food web of your backyard habitat. Add to your knowledge and list of cool natural things to look for with these resources.
  • Examine! Search for seeds, nuts, feathers, or other natural objects to examine with your magnifying glass. Look them up in field guides to learn more about the plant or animal species they come from, or—in the case of chewed nuts—which creature may have been nibbling on them.

What can you do with an hour or more?

  • Explore! Take your explorer’s kit outdoors and start looking into the soil in your backyard. Uncover some of the fascinating relationships between the plants and animals, large and small, forming the web of life in your yard. 
  • Create! Use your sketchbook, journal, or camera to record your memories of the animals and plants you encounter, or write a poem about a real-life nature drama that you watch unfold.
  • Welcome! Invite wildlife to visit by making a brush pile that provides shelter and safe cover. The safer and more comfortable they feel, the more you’ll see of them!

Create a Humane Backyard

A place that offers food, shelter, water, refuge from toxic sprays, and safety from mowers—it’s what every creature wants, right? They want a Humane Backyard. By making simple changes, you can create that haven of comfort and security for local wildlife. And you can do it anywhere: in the city, suburbs, or country. So look around--at your backyard, balcony, or the park down the street—then let us teach you how to make your own Humane Backyard. Once you’ve learned how, take our Humane Backyard pledge.

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