There are many reasons for attracting wildlife to your garden. A wildlife-friendly garden contributes to the diversity and health of its natural surroundings. Interacting with native plants and animals is rewarding. Many native animals and insects help with pollination and pest control.
The fundamental message of this post is that you can create a wildlife-friendly garden in three simple steps; add water, plant natives and lock up your cat!
|Eastern Rosella at a shady garden water bowl|
A well-placed and maintained water bowl, or better still, several water bowls will attract birds, frogs and insects very quickly. Birds in particular will find a water source very readily. A water bowl is best located in the shade but not too concealed nor too open. Deep water bowls are probably best – the water stays cooler longer and evaporates less quickly. Place a rock or stick in a deep bowl to provide a means of escape for an animal that might slip into the water. Water bowls should be cleaned and topped up regularly. Allow the bowl to overflow from time to time onto some stones or rocks underneath and a frog will frequently move in.
(“A guide to helping our native animals with the heat this summer” – LINK Australian Geographic)
|Clockwise from top left - Ficifolia, Hakea sp, Bursaria sp, Wonga Vine|
Native plants of course will be the best choice for attracting native wildlife. However, many native animals and insects are not too fussed about some non-native plants being their food source. Various garden variety herb species for example are excellent attractors of native bees. Honeyeaters will often be attracted to exotic flowering shrubs and trees.
|Honeyeaters love Grevilleas|
The best natural landscapes for attracting a diversity of wildlife generally occur in layers or strata – ground litter, ground cover plants, shrubs, understorey and canopy and a wildlife-friendly garden should try to emulate this even if in miniature. A canopy tree can be a problem in a small backyard but there might be a tree or two nearby on the nature strip or in a park that can be utilized into a garden design.
An idea gaining momentum in back-yard gardening circles at present is the growing of mallee eucalypts. Mallees are generally smaller and some will flower profusely for long periods. Species such as E. caesia are being developed and acclimatized to suit our Gippsland climate - worth a try!
(“The top ten Australian plants for attracting wildlife” – LINK Gardening With Angus)
|Simple wildlife landscaping ideas - insect 'hotel', nest box, hollow logs.|
A hollow log and a small pile of rocks and sticks will often be suitable habitat for a range of reptiles and amphibians. Consider providing an insect-house for native bees and wasps – a block of wood with a variety of holes drilled part way through. Try erecting a nest box for birds, bats, possums or gliders. There is plenty of advice on the internet for wildlife landscape furniture designs.
Lock Up Your Cat
|Credit - Audubon Society|
In Australia, the ordinary domestic house cat is responsible for killing as many as 60 million birds a year. Each year, feral cats in our country kill a staggering 300 million birds! Add in the reptiles and the mammals taken by these felines and the numbers are astounding.
(Baw Baw Shire Council has an order imposed under the Community Local Law 2016, stating that all owners of cats are required to keep their cat securely confined to the property and not allow that cat to wander outside the owner’s premises.)
(“Cats kill 1 million Australian birds a day, study shows” – LINK The Guardian)
Should you offer wildlife supplementary food items?
Generally, in Australia, the advice is that native wildlife should not be offered supplementary food. The main reason for this is that the animals are not accustomed to artificial diets or processed foods. By feeding constantly at a feed table, the animal is not getting the nutritional benefits of a varied food source gathered in the wild.
In many other countries it is an accepted procedure however, and in some circles here, it is suggested that if kept to a minimum, a small amount of supplementary food offered for a short period at a regular time each day can be acceptable. Birds in particular soon learn that a seed tray is worth visiting for half an hour or so each day at a particular time. NEVER leave seed or other food items available all day long as this makes the animals reliant on your offerings, attracts pest species and generally is nutritionally deficient.
A well created wildlife-friendly garden should offer a variety of food sources
and places to nest and hide.
“Habitat – A practical guide to creating a wildlife-friendly Australian garden”, A B Bishop, Murdoch Books.
“Birdscaping Australian Gardens – Using native plants to attract birds to your garden”, George Adams, Viking.