We’ve already discussed three Ecosystem Gardening Essentials:
- Ecosystem Gardening Essentials: Provide Food for Wildlife
- Ecosystem Gardening Essentials: Provide Water for Wildlife
- Ecosystem Gardening Essentials: Provide Shelter for Wildlife
And now we’ll talk about the final essential element to creating welcoming habitat for wildlife in your garden, providing safe places to raise their young.
Keep Your Cats Indoors
Safe places to raise young means a place protected from predators. And the number one predator of baby birds is not hawks, owls, raccoons, snakes, or coyotes. The biggest danger to nesting birds is your family cat. Please keep your cat indoors and encourage your neighbors to do the same.
According to the American Bird Conservancy:
There is no question that birds are better off when cats stay indoors. Exact numbers are unknown, but scientists estimate that every year in the United States alone, cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, and more than a billion small mammals, including rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks. Feline predators include both domestic cats that spend time outdoors and stray cats that live in the wild, sometimes as part of a colony.
I know this is upsetting to many people, and I’ve heard every excuse in the book about allowing cats to go outdoors:
“I feed my cat so much he isn’t hungry when he goes outside.”
“My cat wears a bell.”
“My cat would never kill anything.”
“My cat is not happy inside.”
The truth is, cats kill birds and other wildlife just because they can. It’s their nature. So please keep them indoors. Plus, it’s much safer for your cat to remain indoors. Not a day goes by that I don’t see a squished cat laying by the side of the road in my neighborhood, a victim of a collision with a moving vehicle.
I have three cats of my own. We love them very much–and they stay inside.
Safe Places to Raise Young
Safe places to raise young comes in many forms, and means so much more than bird houses.
While some birds are ground nesters and build their nests in the leaf litter (Ovenbirds come to mind), many other species of wildlife live in the leaf litter and find safety to raise their young. This includes salamanders, small mammals, butterflies, toads, insects, and more.
Tree snags, when they present no danger to your home or others, provide many opportunities for safely raising young. Many birds will reuse woodpecker nest cavities to raise their own broods. Butterflies, native bees, and many other insects also lay their eggs in snags.
Wildlife ponds provide a wonderful place for so many species to produce their next generation, including frogs, toads, dragonflies, and so many others. The addition of a pond to your wildlife garden will provide endless hours of pleasure for you to observe this activity.
Safe Places for Bird Nesting
Did you know that not all birds will use a bird house?
A wildlife garden full of native trees, shrubs, and perennials will go a long way in providing many birds a safe place to raise their young.
With a little forethought, your springtime Ecosystem Garden can be a welcoming haven for many different nesting birds.
So many species of birds have specialized nesting needs that you need to take the time to think of which species of birds you most want to attract and plan your Ecosystem Garden accordingly. Here are just a few to get you started:
Bluebirds in the wildlife garden
Raising bluebirds in your Ecosystem Garden is the dream of many. I, too have dreamed this dream, but my city garden surrounded by many old trees is not their desired habitat. They like open fields with trees along the edges. And it takes a lot of work to keep your bluebird boxes free of House Sparrows who also love this habitat. If you have the space and an open area you can provide welcoming habitat for these beautiful birds.
Chickadees in the wildlife garden
It was a chickadee who first grabbed my heart strings and set me on my journey to become a wildlife gardener. These gregarious birds may be the easiest birds to convince to nest in your Ecosystem Garden. Chickadees will use a nest box, and in my wildlife garden have learned to have their first brood before the House Wrens return from their winter migratory homes.
Purple Martins in the wildlife garden
Purple Martins are colony nesters, and establishing your own nesting colony would be a dream come true. They also migrate in extremely large flocks and are a wonder to behold as they stage at various places along their migratory route. Welcome these stunning birds to your habitat garden, and you will be truly blessed.
Despite Our Best Intentions
And sometimes, despite our best intentions, a bird may choose to nest in an unexpected or unwanted place, like this Killdeer who chose to build its nest in the middle of a parking lot. I’ve had many people ask me how to discourage birds from nesting in unwanted places, like the lamp that hangs over their front door, or their favorite hanging plant.
If we provide lots of opportunities for birds to nest in other areas of our gardens, fill those places with native trees and shrubs, leave a tree snag, let the fallen leaves be we may be able to entice birds to nest in these areas and not right above our front door.
But sometimes no matter what we do some bird will build a nest in an inconvenient spot. What I do in this situation is decide to enjoy the show. It will only be a few weeks of inconvenience and the joys of observing the life cycle of these birds by far compensates me for any hardship. What you do in that circumstance is up to you, but you may find that you can accommodate these birds and learn from the experience. I hope so
How are you providing safe places for birds and other wildlife to raise their young? What nesting birds do you have in your wildlife garden? Leave a comment below to share your experience. We’d love to hear from you!
Carole Sevilla Brown lives in Philadelphia, PA, and she travels the country speaking about Ecosystem Gardening for Wildlife. Check out her new free online course Ecosystem Gardening Essentials, 15 free lessons delivered to your inbox every week.
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