Natural Garden Habitat
When designing your backyard habitat try to include as many natural habitat features as possible. Put some logs and rocks in your garden to provide shelter, protection and resting spots for ground dwelling species and invertebrates, such as lizards, geckos, antechinus and frogs.
Allow a thick layer of leaf litter, twigs, seed pods, old flowers heads and bark to build up in your garden as a natural composting mulch layer and include some plants that have dense, prickly or sharp foliage to provide a protective micro-habitat for small birds.
Leaf litter, twigs and logs in your garden also provide important habitat for fungi to grow. Fungi is an important food source for invertebrates who in turn become food for birds, lizards, skinks, geckos and frogs.
Prickly and densely planted shrubsTo protect small birds from larger ones and other predators, plant shrubs that have closed, prickly or sharp foliage in dense clumps. This provides protective havens and refuges in which small birds can move around freely while feeding, nesting and raising young. Consider planting some prickly shrubs or grow shrubs with a height of up to at least 2 metres, close together, to create dense corners or pockets. Include multiples of a single species but also a mix of native species that will produce food sources such as nectar, fruit and seed. Also add some species that will attract insects, and you will be on your way to having birds such as fantails, wrens and finches flitting freely in and around the bushes.
Rocks and hollow logsGround dwelling mammals, reptiles and invertebrates require shelter and protection from both larger predators and the weather. In nature and within your backyard garden habitat, shelter and protection can be easily provided. Place a variety of logs and rocks around the garden and under vegetation or use them around garden edges. The inclusion of hollow logs will also provide shelter for larger lizards, dragons and some mammal species such antechinus, dunnarts, native bush rats and melomys.
Larger rocks and logs provide resting spots for a variety of reptiles such as lizards and dragons to sit on and warm themselves in the sun while also providing cool moist areas for frogs and smaller reptiles to shelter under.
Water is important for all wildlife. If you have a low lying wet area, incorporate this into your habitat design. You could even create a pond in the centre with deeper water and plant some water loving native sedges, lomandra’s, rush’s and grasses around the edge to provide protection for frogs, lizards and insects. Include some logs and rocks for larger animals such as birds to sit on and access the water to drink and for frogs and lizards to hide under. Design a shallow drainage channel lined with rocks to mimic a dry creek bed, to run through your garden and direct water to your wetland or pond. The additional water flow can help to prevent the wetland and pond from becoming stagnant and the native frogs and lizards will help with natural mosquito control.
Wet Boggy Areas and Ponds
Leaf litter is nature’s natural mulch layer. Allowing a thick layer of fallen leaves, twigs, seed pods, old flowers heads and bark to build up in your garden has many benefits. This natural mulch layer works like blanket to control soil temperature and reduce moisture loss. As this material slowly breaks down and decomposes, valuable organic material and important nutrients are added to your soil to aid plant growth.
Leaf litter and organic mulch
The decomposing process is facilitated by thousands of micro-organisms, insects, beetles and fungi all working together to break down leaves, twigs and other organic material. Fungi are an essential component within an ecosystem. They are responsible for decomposition of organic material into nutrient rich natural compost, assist plants to convert and take up nutrients from within the soil and are an important food source for invertebrates. In turn, larger insect-eating fauna and birds are attracted into the mulch layer to feed on the smorgasbord of insects on offer. A large number of our native animals feed on insects, including most birds, lizards, skinks, geckos, frogs and even echidnas. Many of these species in turn become food for larger animals. For example, kookaburras, magpies and butcher birds will feed on lizards, skinks, geckos, frogs and small snakes.
A living layer of leaf litter, twigs, logs and mulch is one of the most important components you can have in your backyard to maintain healthy soil and a functioning ecosystem that will attract a diversity of fauna species.
Trees and Canopy CoverMedium and larger sized trees provide perching, look out, nesting, foraging and roosting (sleeping) sites for birds. Larger birds like the Magpie and White-faced Herons require strong stable branches higher up in the canopy to build their nests in and support their young chicks as they grow. Larger older eucalypts provide valuable nesting hollows for a variety of wildlife species.
For further InformationLinks and Other Resources
challenges, tools and games.
Useful Tips and Facts
- Create urban wildlife corridors and stepping stones to larger local bushland or parkland areas.
- In nature there is no such thing as waste everything is linked and contributes to the cycle. As a plant reaches the end of its life cycle it is not discarded by nature, instead it provides habitat for animals and food for micro-organisms as it lies on the ground, the waste from the micro-organisms, bacteria and fungi feeding on it replace nutrients and organic material to the soil for new plants to grow.
- Plant local native species
- The best way to attract native wildlife to your backyard is to provide a variety of healthy natural foods in the form of seeds, leaves, flowers, nectar, pollen, fruits and nuts throughout the year.
- The use of pesticides and herbicides can damage your soils and kill non target species. The poisoning of insects with chemicals can also cause larger species relying on those insects as a food source to become sick or even die from eating poisoned insects.
- To create habitat for smaller native birds you can grow shrubs close together to create dense corners or pockets in your garden which will provide protection and refuge from larger aggressive birds such as noisy miners
- Wattles (Acacias). While most wattles only live between 6 - 10 years, they are an important pioneer species which colonise disturbed areas, where other plants find it hard to grow. They improve soil conditions enough to allow other species to germinate and thrive by fixing nitrogen into the soil through their roots and adding high levels of organic leaf litter.