Habitat around your home: The Why

Over the month of April we took to social media to share some of our favourite tips for creating a wildlife friendly garden. We enjoyed doing that so much we thought we’d turn that advice, and some extra content that didn’t make it into the posts, into a blog series that everyone can read. We’re going to start with the ‘why’: a little bit of ecological context, to understand what makes action to support wildlife so important. 


Why do we need to take action and garden for birds?  

Because birds need us! Life is tough for an Australian native bird. Our towns and cities can, and do, have a huge diversity of birds in them - even threatened species. But even birds we think of as 'common' are in decline. 

Australian birds have adapted to their unique habitats and play a vital role in our local ecosystems. However, non-native species, such as the Common Myna, can outcompete natives and disrupt the balance of our environment. By protecting and conserving our native bird populations, we can help maintain the health and diversity of our ecosystems and appreciate the beauty of our unique wildlife. 
Urban areas are expanding, and land available as good habitat for Australia's incredible bird species is shrinking. They are very different to our natural bushland. Think of the whole range of new challenges we give them (like roads, pets, windows, lack of shrubs, pesticides etc). We know that we can create spaces to support birds through habitat gardening. When you use locally native plants in your garden, you are providing a natural food source and shelter for birds, insects, and other animals. You’re also creating a safe-haven that birds can use as a stepping stone as they move between other, larger patches of habitat. From choosing the right plants to providing a water source and avoiding harmful chemicals, small changes in how you garden practices can make a big difference in supporting local wildlife populations. 


Urban Success stories 

Humans have altered the landscape in a way that has rolled out a red carpet for some species but made it very difficult for others to survive. Think of the large expanses of open lawns in parks, sports fields and roadsides. This is great for larger birds that are happy to forage in the open, like Galahs. 
Our urban successful birds tend to be larger, eat a range of different foods, nest in a variety of urban habitats, are social, often quite aggressive and are tolerant to disturbance. Smaller native species are often more restricted in these features and dependent on the shelter that habitat gardening can provide, so every time you add habitat features to your space, you are supporting more of our birdlife. Think about the additional features you can add to help those less common urban birds to survive. 


Noisy Miners. 
We are often asked for advice about Noisy Miners. These are charismatic Aussie birds that have done very well across our rapidly altered urban landscapes of the east and south of Australia, but they can aggressively exclude other species in the area. 

If you are concerned about Noisy Miners pushing smaller species out, the best thing you can do is create safe, sheltered spaces for smaller birds. Choose dense, spiky foliage with varied flowering times. Many commercial Australian flowering plants like grevillea hybrids are beautiful, but their high year-round nectar load is a magnet for aggressive birds. Be careful not to overuse them. By planting for shelter you’ll be supporting a diverse array of species. 


How can you learn about your local environment? 
There are lots of different tools you can use to learn about the birds that live where you do. Use the Explore function on the Birdata website (search for Birdata in your favourite search tool) for a list of the most common birds in your area, or download the Aussie Bird Count App for a free and easy bird ID tool. 

Be selfish! 
Connecting with nature is a great thing we can do for our own wellbeing. The good news is, you don’t need to travel all the way to a pristine wilderness to reap the wellbeing benefits of nature. 
We challenge you to get outside and take ten with the birds. On your balcony, in your yard or at a local park. Sit quietly and pay attention to the nature around you. Listen to the birdlife and soak it all in.  


Find your flock! 
If you’ve got a habitat gardening obsession sprouting, why not get in touch with a local habitat gardening group in your area. It’s a great way to share your efforts with like-minded people and learn from others. Your local council will likely be able to link you up with a habitat gardening group that’s active in your area. 

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