Wildlife Sanctuary Certification Program


Photo © Jacqueline McRae


Atlanta Audubon Society's Sanctuary Certification Program allows property owners to gain certification as a Wildlife Sanctuary. As part of the certifiation process, a volunteer certifier will visit your property to determine whether it meets certification requirements. Upon completion of the certification program, property ownerw will receive an official Atlanta Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary sign for display on the property.


There are two types of properties under the program:


1) Wildlife Sanctuary Certification Program


Homeowners are encouraged to establish their yards as beneficial habitats for wildlife by becoming certified as an Atlanta Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary. Atlanta Audubon hopes to create a network of wildlife habitats to provide critical habitat and create wildlife corridors for birds and other wildlife in metro-Atlanta.


2) Large Property Sanctuary Program


Atlanta Audubon Society also certifies large properties as wildlife sanctuaries, including parks, nature trails, and other habitats.


Area residential developers are encouraged to use landscape design techniques beneficial to wildlife habitat and install nesting boxes on their properties. Atlanta Audubon hopes 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 the Sanctuary Program Coordinator.


To sign up for certification online and pay with a credit card, please click here. Please note that you must join Atlanta Audubon Society in order to be certified as a wildlife sanctuary. If you are not a current members, please select the registration option that includes a membership. The cost of a 1-year membership is included in the large property certification fees.


If you would prefer to mail in your application and a check, please download the application from our website and mail 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


To learn more about native plants and where to find them, visit the National Audubon Society's Plants for Birds page. You'll find many great resources on this site about creating habitat using plant species that are native to you area.



Invasive Plants


In order to receive sanctuary certification from Atlanta Audubon, 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 gardeners, 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 online or by downloading and 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. Atlanta Audubon 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 Audubon Society Plants for Birds

Listing of Georgia Native Plant Nurseries

Fall 2016 Native Plant Sales

Creating a Healthy Yard Publication

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

A Homeowner's Guide to Preventing the Introduction and Spread of Endangered Species

The Invasive Species Task Force

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