Wildlife Sanctuary Certification Program


Atlanta Audubon Society’s Wildlife Sanctuary Program encourages property owners to enhance their land for birds and other wildlife. Through planting and providing native plants, removing or controlling exotic species, and providing food, water, and shelter for wildlife, local property owners can provide critical wildlife habitat and create a safe-haven for wildlife.


Atlanta Audubon's goal is to create a network of certified wildlife sanctuaries throughout metro-Atlanta to counter the loss of wildlife habitat to urbanization, and to provide additional habitat for the hundreds of birds and other species threatened by climate change. 


Atlanta Audubon’s Certification Program is unique in that a certifier actually visits your property to ensure requirements are met. Property owners who meet requirements and pass a site inspection will receive a sign designating their property as a registered "wildlife sanctuary.” If a property does not meet certification criteria, the certifier will recommend steps that should be taken to bring the property up to certification standards and recommend a timeline for future certification.


Please note that certification is only available at sites within metro-Atlanta and nearby counties. An Atlanta Audubon Society membership is required for certification.


Creating A Sanctuary


Property size and type:
  • Certified area must be at least 50 sq. ft. in size.

  • Applicants must be the owner/designated manager of the property.


On the site visit, the certifier will be looking for a balanced, holistically managed property that provides necessary habitat elements to support a variety of bird species.


Properties MUST meet the following standards to be eligible for certification:


Four basic components of wildlife habitat: 
  1. Food resources should include well-maintained bird feeders, food-producing native plants, and insect/small animal habitat.

  2. At least one water resource shall be maintained.

  3. At least one shelter area, including but not limited to dense shrubs, evergreen, wattles (brush and stick piles,) rock piles or walls, snags, fallen logs, ground cover, and/or roosting boxes.  

  4. Space shall meet minimum square footage requirements and provide enough area for foraging, nesting, and roosting.


Certifier will also ensure: 
  1. Less than half the certified portion of the property is turf grass.

  2. Less than half of the property is composed of invasive, exotic plant species, including English ivy, Chinese privet, Japanese wisteria, kudzu, Johnson grass, or others. Plant species that can be harmful to birds, such as nandina, should be removed.

  3. Roughly half of the plants in the certified area are native Georgia species.

  4. The certified area must support bird populations. A list of observed bird species must be submitted by the applicant or certifier.


Applicants must pledge to the following bird-friendly practices:

  1.  Keep invasive, exotic plants under control.

  2. Minimize or eliminate the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides.

  3. Minimize use of motorized landscaping equipment.

  4. Keep their own domestic cats indoors and do not feed outdoor cats.

  5. Decrease any bird hazards posed by reflective glass, outdoor lighting, and inappropriate feeder or nest box placement.

  6. Participate in one citizen science activity, such as the Great Backyard Bird Count, eBird, Nestwatch, or Project Feeder Watch. 


Large Property Certification


Atlanta Audubon welcomes large property owners or managers, including parks, gardens, cemeteries, and residential common spaces; however, only portions of these properties will be certified. Large properties must meet all residential criteria listed above. The following exceptions apply:

  • Golf courses that are not Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuaries as designated by Audubon International will not be considered for certification;
  • Active cemeteries must maintain a natural area where burials are not allowed that meet the minimum 50 sq. ft. area. 


For more information or to sign up


For more information or if you have questions, please 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 member, please select the registration option that includes a membership. The cost of a one-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.


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.



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


Watch the Georgia Outdoors Backyard Habitat Special on Georgia Public Broadcasting

National Audubon Society Plants for Birds

Listing of Georgia Native Plant Nurseries

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