Backyard Wildlife Habitat-Xeriscape and Native Plants

Xeriscape symbol

Xeriscape Symbol

We have been talking about how to create a backyard wildlife habitat in your own back yard. We’ve already gone over assessing your yard or garden space and providing the four basic elements.

Today we are going to discuss practicing resource conservation in your own backyard. Conserving resources will not only help the wildlife in your own backyard but will help improve our community’s environment.

Here are some ideas for practicing resource conservation:

  • Plant native plants suited to your region and don’t plant any invasive exotics (or in other words, non-native plants) if possible. I can see the logic here. Native plants are used to your drought, level of humidity, high temperatures and occasional floods. On the other hand “xeriscape” landscaping that I talk about below allows the use of exotics, if they are low maintenance.
  • Establish a backyard wetland or drainage buffer area to filter storm water and limit runoff. It does happen.
  • Capture roof water for use in planted areas. When it rained the other day, I wanted to collect the water sitting in the streets until I saw the birds swimming in it. I think I’ll get some buckets.

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Backyard Wildlife Habitats–Purple Martins

Purple Martins
Purple Martins

Here for your enjoyment is some history about Purple Martins. Expect to learn the truth about martins and mosquitoes. Before we start I want to give you some general information to help you understand what I am going to say about Purple Martins.

This information comes from a pamphlet on “Urban Wildlife Diversity” from the Texas Parks and Wildlife, written by Ray Whitney. Ray starts off with definitions, which always help me.

Wildlife diversity means the variety of animals that live within a particular area. These often decrease when the area becomes urbanized.

Urbanization is the process by which wildlife habitat is transformed to better meet the needs of humans. When an area is developed for human use, much of the native vegetation is removed and its habitat potential for wildlife is significantly altered.

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Backyard Wildlife Habitat–More on Nest Boxes

Typical bird nest box

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been thinking about bird houses, excuse me, nest boxes. I even saw some for sale on the Net.

Let’s look at what Scott Edwards says about building a nest box in “Creating a Bird-Friendly Backyard Habitat.”  I also have some helpful hints from Don and Lillian Stokes.

No paint needed

The nest box should be undecorated. Certain paints and stains might be toxic to the birds. The wood should be untreated as well.

Scott has a list of nest box dimensions for different kinds of birds that includes the mounting height, the house height, the entrance hole size, the distance from the hole to the floor and the floor size. Oh gosh, now I’m intimidated.

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Backyard Wildlife Habitat–Nest Boxes

Watching the birdie
Image by ropesandpulleys via Flickr

While it’s still winter time, this is the best time to be thinking about creating your own backyard wildlife habitat. Today’s article is on nesting boxes. What’s that, you ask?

Providing Shelter is the chapter title to Scott Edwards’ “Creating a Bird-Friendly Backyard Habitat.” I also found a web site by Lillian and Don Stokes that talks about birdhouses. I was amazed at the many different forms they took.

Scott does not like the term “birdhouse.” He says that birds don’t actually live in their nesting boxes. Cavity-nesting birds generally build their nest (in some cases they don’t build anything at all) in a box, raise their young, fledge them and then are done with the box. For most North America’s cavity-nesters, the whole process from egg-laying to fledgling, takes approximately one month.

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Backyard Wildlife Habitat–Some Shocking Suggestions

Birds are the last surviving dinosaurs.

Image via Wikipedia

It’s the dead of winter for us. Your plants have either dropped leaves, are hibernating or are at least shivering. Why would you want to start thinking about reshaping your yard now?

Actually, this is the best time to plant certain trees and shrubs. And it is as good a time as any to think through how you would like your yard to become a backyard wilderness habitat.

We have been studying Scott Edward’s book, Creating a Bird-Friendly Backyard Habitat, published by T.F.H. Publications, Inc. There are also sites on the Net about birding that might interest you. In this article I am going to make some shocking suggestions. Wait for it.

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