Neighborhood Habitat Improvement Project

Helping Wisconsin Communities be more Water-, Pollinator-, and Bird-Friendly

It All Starts with Native Plants

NHIP is designed to help residents improve urban habitats right in their own backyards. One of the largest components of this project is planting native plants.

Birds Need Insects and Insects Need Native Plants

Birds rely on insects for their food, even those that eat seeds. For example, a pair of Black-capped Chickadees typically feed their chicks around 7,500 caterpillars! Native plants play a crucial role in supporting the insect populations birds depend on. Over time, insects developed unique relationships with our native plants, using them as host sites to carry out their life cycles. Introduced plants don't have this connection with insects, and that's why native species will support a greater number of insects, which in turn provide food for birds.

insect chickadee illustration

Benefits of Native Plants in Urban Areas

Native plants offer so many benefits! And not just for wildlife, but for our environment, too. They can be used in stream or lake buffers, rain gardens, and other green infrastructure to help with water infiltration, reducing erosion, and decreasing pollution. Native plants help filter the air, removing harmful pollutants like ozone, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxides.

Forwarding the Science of Birds and Native Plants

The Lake Michigan Bird Observatory is gathering information to understand how our choices in landscaping affect birds' nesting success in suburban areas. This research will help us to develop effective strategies to create habitats that are friendly to birds in our neighborhoods.

insect bird diagram
insect chickadee illustration

Growing Partnerships for Greater Results

NHIP is made possible by working together with amazing partners, including nonprofit organizations, government agencies, foundations, businesses, and community groups. By joining forces, we can have a greater impact on improving habitat for birds and other wildlife.

NHIP Goals:

  • To improve habitat for birds and other wildlife in residential areas of the Lake Michigan Basin.
  • To improve water quality of suburban streams.
  • To improve our scientific understanding of how urbanization affects birds. 
  • To nurture and promote a community of engaged, motivated and knowledgeable community scientists in the Lake Michigan Region. 
wisconsin native plants

Making it Easy to Plant Natives

NHIP is committed to making it simple for residents to include native plants in their yards. We offer demonstrations, yard consultations, community events, model gardens, tree giveaways, webinars, and reduced-cost native plants. Our aim is to make planting native species an easy and accessible process for everyone.

Join us in the NHIP Journey

We invite you to be part of the Neighborhood Habitat Improvement Project! 

By getting involved with native plants right in your own backyard, you can beautify your community, create an outdoor space for science learning, and reduce water pollution by keeping rainwater where it falls. All while advancing science and enhancing the overall ecological health of our neighborhoods for humans and animals to enjoy.

Whether you're interested in volunteering, participating in workshops, or simply learning more about native plants and their benefits, there are plenty of ways for you to get involved. Together we can make a difference and create a thriving habitat for birds, pollinators, and other wildlife in our communities. Contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to join the NHIP movement today!

Bird-Friendly Living

Birds bring joy and beauty to our lives, and by making a few simple changes, we can ensure their well-being and support their populations for generations to come.

Creating a Safe Haven for Birds

Birds face numerous challenges in their natural habitats, from loss of nesting sites to lack of food and water sources. But you can make a difference! By providing a safe haven in your yard, you can attract a variety of bird species and help them thrive. Here's why each step is important to birds:

  1. Plant Native Trees, Shrubs, and Flowers: Native plants provide birds with essential food sources such as insects, berries, nectar, and seeds. They also offer secure nesting sites and shelter from predators. By planting native species, you're providing birds with the resources they need to survive and thrive.
  2. Minimize Pesticide, Herbicide, and Fertilizer Use: Chemical lawn treatments can harm birds directly or indirectly. Pesticides and herbicides can contaminate food sources, while fertilizers can lead to an imbalance in the ecosystem, especially aquatic ecosystems. By reducing the use of these chemicals, you're ensuring a healthier environment for yourself, birds, and the landscapes both humans and wildlife depend on.
  3. Reduce Collisions: Birds collide with windows because they see reflections of surrounding landscape, or they can see through two sets of windows to outdoor habitat. These collisions often result in injury or death. By using window decals, films, or netting, you're making windows more visible to birds, greatly reducing the chances of collisions. 
  4. Keep Cats Indoors: Cats are natural predators, and outdoor cats pose a significant threat to birds. Even well-fed cats hunt birds instinctively, leading to declines in bird populations. By keeping cats indoors or supervising their outdoor activities, you're safeguarding birds and reducing predation risks.
  5. Be Mindful of Bird Migration: Birds undertake long and challenging journeys during migration. Disorienting artificial lighting can interfere with their navigation and energy reserves. By reducing outdoor lighting at night, you're helping migratory birds stay on course and conserve vital energy for their journeys. If you need to use outdoor lights, choose ones that point downward to reduce the risk posed to birds. 
  6. Choose Bird-Safe Coffee: Most traditional coffee farms clear cut rain forest habitats (AKA bird habitat) to create monoculture coffee plantations. By opting for bird-friendly coffee, you're supporting sustainable farming methods, like shade growing, that preserve bird habitats and contribute to the conservation of bird populations. 
  7. Participate in Community Science: Community science projects allow anyone to contribute valuable data and observations to scientific research. By participating in bird monitoring and conservation initiatives, you're helping scientists better understand bird populations, migration patterns, and behaviors. This knowledge is crucial for implementing effective conservation strategies. Check out our community science page for more information!
  8. Reduce the Use of Plastic: Plastic pollution poses a threat to birds as they may ingest or become entangled in plastic debris. Microplastic pollution is a growing threat to aquatic organisms and birds that depend on them.

Join the Bird-Friendly- Living Community

Living a bird-friendly life is a journey we can all embark on together. By making small changes in our daily lives and embracing bird-friendly practices, we can create a network of welcoming habitats for our avian neighbors. The Observatory is doing its part to make these actions easier through NHIP.

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