Sanctuary Certification


Photo © Jacqueline McRae

Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary Program


Local property owners are encouraged to establish their yards as beneficial habitats for wildlife. When requirements are met, homeowners receive signs stating that their property is registered as a "wildlife sanctuary" with Atlanta Audubon Society.


Large Property Sanctuary Program


Area residential developers are encouraged to use landscape design techniques beneficial to wildlife habitat and install nesting boxes on their properties. On completion of this type of project, a planting design and box installation plan is submitted to AAS and a "Wildlife Sanctuary" sign is installed on the property.


AAS hopes to continue expanding the Wildlife Sanctuary program. It is anticipated that more developers and commercial property owners will participate in this program. We hope to encourage residential subdivision owners and homeowners' associations, business park owners/managers, and golf course owners/managers to become involved with this effort as both an environmental initiative and a community outreach program.


For more information, email Cindy Mayer. Mail applications to Atlanta Audubon Society, 4055 Roswell Road, Atlanta, GA 30342. Click here for an application. A certifier will contact you 2 to 3 weeks after your application is received to schedule a certification visit.  During the peak months of July to October, this process may take 4 to 6 weeks.  This program is conducted entirely by volunteers so please be patient.


How to Create a Sanctuary in your Yard


Creating a wildlife sanctuary in your backyard is an important commitment to conserving and protecting our environment. You can provide a backyard habitat for wildlife—here are some essential elements each sanctuary should possess:


  • Shelter - active nesting areas or shelters that attract and protect birds and other wildlife. 

  • Food - feeders and plantings that offer seeds, flowers, and berries to wildlife. 

  • Water - birdbaths, water gardens, or natural features with flowing water.

  • Nesting Sites - bird boxes, natural cavities, or wood piles and vine tangles.


Here are some additional suggestions for creating suitable wildlife sanctuaries:


  • Sanctuaries should have a significant representation of native plants (50% is a good goal).  Some ornamental species are fine as well.

  • Strive to reduce the amount of lawn/turfgrass as the chemical and watering requirements of large areas of grass are not conducive to wildlife. 

  • Invasive species, such as English ivy, privet, kudzu and wisteria, should be completely removed or stricly controlled.  This is an ongoing process for most landowners.


Benefits of using native plants in your landscaping include:


  • Disease resistance

  • Drought tolerance

  • Attract native/beneficial insects that provide food for birds, particulary during nesting season


Invasive Plants


In order to receive sanctuary certification from AAS, any invasive species must be removed or strictly controlled.  Removing invasive plants, such as ivy, privet, kudzu and wisteria, is not a one-time action.  For most gardners, it is an ongoing process.  


Here are some tips removing invasive species:


  • Manually removal is the preferred over chemical solutions which can affect the landscape for years to come.

  • Flocks of goats and/or sheep are now available for rental in Georgia.  Many landowners have used this very effective, very fast removal technique.

  • In areas that are unreachable, chemical solutions may be necessary but AAS recommends doing your research and finding a reputable company that will minimize chemical use as much as possible.


When our certifiers visit your sanctuary, they will be looking for a balanced property managed with a holistic mantra.  This is beneficial for both the wildlife and the property owners as maintenance requirements are far easier on a more naturally managed property.


For more information


Apply for the Atlanta Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary Program by completing an application form.


Watch the Georgia Outdoors Backyard Habitat Special on Georgia Public Broadcasting

Many backyards habitats and gardens meet wildlife sanctuary requirements and are worthy of recognition by Atlanta Audubon Society. AAS recognizes these habitats by providing an attractive sign designating the property as a wildlife sanctuary.



These websites offer helpful advice on creating your own backyard habitat:  


National Wildlife Federation: Garden for Wildlife

Habitat Requirements of Wildlife:  Food, Water, Cover and Space

The War on Georgia's Invasive Species

Native Plant Suppliers Directory

Native Plant Guides for Georgia

How to Create a Haven for Hummingbirds  

Audubon's Guide to a Healthy Yard

Georgia Native Plant Society

Cats Indoors Campaign