On the wild side

From 17th to 23rd October, it’s the Aussie Backyard Bird Count, which asks the public to record trends in bird communities, so start looking at what birds or other wild animals are lurking in your garden.

  • By Sara McGregor from the Planet Ark Environmental Foundation

It’s easy to think of Sydney as a concrete jungle at times, but from the air it’s amazing to see how much green canopy exists within the Sydney Basin. One of the joys of living here is that we can all play a role in protecting it.

If you take the time to look you’ll see wildlife all around you. Rare owls, parrots, bats echidnas, wallabys, goannas, bandicoots and koalas can all be found hidden in Sydney’s north.

You can help these native species to survive, and even thrive by planting native trees, shrubs and grasses through programs like National Tree Day. In fact, October 3rd is World Habitat Day, so why not celebrate by planting a tree? There are many local bush and landcare groups who care for our natural spaces and love to welcome new volunteers.

Litter presents risks to local wildlife. Not only can animals get tangled in plastic bags and fishing line, they can also ingest plastics which fill their stomachs causing malnutrition. Taking your rubbish with you and even picking up other people’s litter reduces the chance of animals getting in trouble. You can reduce your dependence on disposable plastics by using reusable shopping bags.

Australians love pets but they present a number of threats to wildlife. Leaving pet food out can attract non-native species like Indian myna birds, an aggressive species that competes with native birds for food. Domestic cats are particularly adept hunters and should be kept inside over night. Similarly Wires advises owners to keep dogs inside at night, or confined to a secure space when native animals are most active, while on a leash in a wildlife protected area during daytime walks.

Feeding native birds – a bad idea
While it can be fun to set up a bird feeder, feeding native wildlife the wrong foods can spread disease and lead to dependency on human handouts, often not correct or balanced for the particular species of bird or animal.

It also encourages larger grain eating parrots, which soon displace from the vicinity most other species like the smaller honeyeaters and insect eaters.

And encouraging the large meat-eating birds like currawongs and kookaburras with handouts of mince and meat is not only bad for them, they may drive away other smaller birds, raid nests and eat eggs and chicks.

Planting the right foliage or habitat for local birds and marsupials will attract them to your yard and provide them with a healthy diet. Your local council nursery can usually help identify suitable plants.

To identify and find out more about the local birds and animals you spot around the neighbourhood, the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife has a great website called Backyard Buddies.

From 17th to 23rd October, it’s the Aussie Backyard Bird Count, a program that relies on the public to help record and track trends in bird communities to help their conservation, so what better time to start looking at what’s in your backyard or local park? The count, which helps identify if particular birds are thriving or not, can happen anywhere in Australia, not just in your backyard  – in parks, green spaces and the beach. There’s a field guide and app to identify the birds and Birdlife Australia recommends counting birds for 20 minutes at a time during that week.

Other native wildlife
We all have a role to play in looking after Aussie wildlife and while it’s tempting to let kids feed the kookaburra morsels of mince, it does them no good because you’re giving them the wildlife equivalent of junk food. Instead of eating a wide range of natural foods, they depend on processed seeds, bread and other foods that are not part of their natural diet and can make them very sick.

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