I usually focus on a bird species in this column, but this month I want to talk about creating a wildlife habitat in your backyard whether you live in an urban or rural area, have a large backyard or a small patio space. In any of these settings, with just a bit of effort, it is possible to create a welcoming oasis for birds and wildlife.
North American birds have declined by nearly 3 billion since the 1970s. This is mainly due to habitat loss, invasive species, climate change and pesticides. This is a staggering number, but there are some simple steps we can take that can make a difference.
These include providing food, water, shelter and suitable habitat for birds and wildlife in your area.
Recent studies have determined that although birds do not become dependent on our bird feeders, feeding birds does increase their rate of survival. Putting out a bird feeder with seed is the most common way to feed the birds.
Not all bird food is formulated with the bird’s nutritional needs in mind. Be sure to check with a knowledgeable source when choosing a bird food and feeder for your yard. Planting native, bird friendly foods such as nectar producing flowers and winter berry and seed producing plants provide natural foods year round.
Water is a magnet for birds and wildlife, especially in our arid climate. Bird baths no deeper than 1 to 2 inches safely provide water for small and large birds.
Other water features such as ponds also attract a wide variety of visitors. If providing a bird bath, it is important for the bird’s health to change the water daily.
Shelter can provide a safe place for birds to raise their young, and protection from predators. Types of shelter include man-made nesting boxes or providing a brush pile. Not all nest boxes are safe for the birds. If using nest boxes it is important that the box meet the required specifications for the species it is designed to house.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a reputable resource for information on nesting birds.
Providing a habitat that includes low water use, native food producing plants is key to attracting the greatest variety of birds and wildlife to your backyard. Check with your local nursery to find the best selection for your area.
Wherever you live in New Mexico, the following resources will assist you in creating a backyard habitat for birds and wildlife.
Mary Schmauss is the owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Albuquerque. A lifelong birder and author of “For the Birds: A Month-by-Month Guide to Attracting Birds to your Backyard.”