Adding Objects to Habitat Maps

Photo © Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Objects add a dynamic layer to a habitat map. They are the third step in creating an accurate, visually-appealing, and complete map. Objects provide another opportunity to highlight specific features on your site that encourage wildlife and improve ecological function at the site.

Objects to add to a map include, trees , shrubs , flowers , vines , plants , planter , cactus , rocks , snag , log , brushpile , birdfeeder , bird bath , birdhouse , apiary , bee house , bat house , compost , rain barrel , solar panel , windmill , geothermal station . With more to come!


Photo © Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The tree, flower, cacti, and shrub objects have multiple icon options, why? This is simply to help mappers create a custom representation of their site using color, arrangement, and variety to create the best representation of their landscaping on their maps. The creative decisions are entirely up to the mapper–there is no right or wrong!

Have an idea for an object? Email us!

baby killdeer

Photo © Curtis Ellis, Jr.

Critical information is often conveyed in the details. For most objects there are characteristics to be completed that give the Habitat Network additional information about species or management choices. This information enriches the object, giving it context on your map. For a complete a map, make sure to provide these details by taking the time to fill-in the characteristics for each object. Some objects don’t have characteristics. If you have ideas for characteristics or objects, share them with us.


Tree fixed

Photo © Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Tell us whether the trees retain their leaves (evergreen) or lose them in the winter (deciduous).Does the tree have thorns or not? Are the leaves broadleaf or coniferous? Does the tree provide a food resource for wildlife?

“Not Known”

Notice that “Not Known” is an adequate answer for several of the characteristics–no information is an important form of data.


Flower Characteristics

Photo © Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Are the flowers perennial, meaning they regrow on their own each year, or are they annuals, which need to be replanted each year? Do the flowers provide a food source? Some plants provide more than one, for instance wild strawberries are an excellent early nectar sources for pollinators but also yield fruits that are edible for small rodents and insects. Choose the food source that you think is the most ecologically important.


shrub fixed

Photo © Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Does the shrub have thorns or not? And, does the shrub provide a food source for wildlife? The shrub may provide more than one food source, so the mapper decides which is the most relevant or important.

Brush pile

Is the brush pile made of predominantly living or nonliving debris?

Compost pile

Are the compost scraps mostly kitchen scraps, landscaping debris or mixed?


birdfeeder copy

Photo © Cornell lab of Ornithology

What type of food does the feeder provide–seeds, suet, insects, nectar or fruit? The type of food provided will influence the type of birds that stop by for a snack. How often is the feeder cleaned? The Lab of Ornithology recommends weekly cleaning to minimize the spreading of contagious diseases, like Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis (a.k.a. House Finch Eye Disease). What type of feeder is it–hanging-tube, hummingbird, ground, platform or other?

Rain barrel

Tell us the percentage of irrigation needs met by using a rain barrel.

Solar Panel/Windmill/Geothermal

What percentage of the property’s energy needs are met using these alternatives? An estimate is perfect!

Pictures of Apiary

Photo © Cornell Lab of Ornithology

A picture is worth a thousand words! Photos for each object can be directly uploaded to the map. This is a fast and fun way to share images. Above, this landowner has uploaded pictures of an apiary to their site. These images bring the map to life and allow other users to admire specific features in yards. Check-out this article to learn how to upload photos.


Photo © Mary Dunn

Don’t forget to come back and update your map when you’ve added new objects to your landscaping.