Sunday, July 17, 2011

Backyards are important for native birds too!

Some of you in suburbia may not realise the life or death situation the type of plants you have in your backyard can create for native birds in these areas. As more and more people change or landscape their gardens with non-native plants in highly urbanised environments or just replace gardens with more house and a little bit of grass the number of native birds is being reduced (in both number and types of native birds). You may have noticed there are one or two common species in your garden, maybe magpies, noisy miners, crows or lorikeets. These are all species that have been able to adapt to the resources generally available in the suburbs. There are however scores of species missing from these areas that were once prevalent, even in recent years, and many more moving towards extinction in the major centres.

Birds in Backyards has a great program where you can record the types of birds in your backyards. This helps scientist obtain information about changes in population and species across time and space in urban settings without having to do extensive survey works themselves. The site also provides advice on how to encourage native birds back back into your gardens with the help of useful guidelines for all types of urban gardens and for all types of groups and people, as well as a great diversity of other resources. The guidelines currently available on the Birds In Backyards website are:

  • domestic gardens
  • schools
  • bushland managers
  • councils and planners
  • landscape architects
  • street tree planners
  • open space managers. 
Using and having native plant species and a broad diversity of these in your garden provides resources for native birds. The types of resources they provide include food, nesting and roosting opportunities for all sorts of native animals including birds. Trees will provide nesting spaces in their branches and foraging (food) resources with their fruits, flowers and insects that they also attract. Small shrubs provide the same types of resources but are likely to return smaller, less aggressive bird species to your garden.

The more people that provide resources for birds and native animals in suburbia the more likely native birds species will be retained in these areas. Also don't be turned off because you don't live directly adjacent to a native bushland or your neighbour doesn't plant native trees, birds are highly mobile species and will find your garden in the matrix of suburbia. 

Another positive to having native gardens is that they don't have to be expensive to establish or maintain. Native nurseries are becoming more prevalent in major centres and often sell much of their plants as tubestock (smaller, younger plants). Because such plants are less mature and haven't had as much "looking after" they are regularly cheaper than standard nursery stock, meaning you don't have to take out a second mortgage to get a significant number of these types of plants into your garden. Also because native plants are from the area you live (if you buy the right kinds) they are use to the conditions and thus require less inputs and maintenance to keep them alive and looking good. 

Consider the resources available to you through websites such as Birds in Backyards to inform you about what is right for you, your area and the birds that are and could be in your backyard, as well as the wealth of knowledge native and local specialised nurseries can provide to you about growing and maintaining appropriate native plants. And overall the benefits you and your local area's biodiversity will gain from maintaining or re-introducing native birds back into your area.
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