Native plants increase wildlife habitat

Plant selection, Wildlife

I’ve discovered a bonus of creating a native landscape: wildlife! I love wild animals. I think of them as low-maintenance pets. I enjoy sitting on the porch and watching birds visit my landscape. In the back yard, I covered the drainage holes in my block fence with grates, which keeps out snakes, rabbits, and gophers, while allowing birds and lizards in.

Here is some of the wildlife I’ve experienced.

Native bee house

House for native bees

Quail roam through my yard at will. This summer a young quail hen practiced laying eggs in a Wildlife_bannerpotted plant on my front porch. I love it when I see quail chicks in the spring. Quail use various native bushes for food and cover. They love eating wildflower seed before your flowers can sprout.

White-winged doves visit frequently. They like drinking from water puddles in the yard.

Hummingbirds love fairy duster flowers. The neighbors next door had a hummingbird nest in one of their trees. There are three birds that constantly fight over my yard as territory.

Migrating birds. Many more kinds of birds travel through Arizona during migration. I’ve had lots of bird nests in trees in my yard. I enjoy watching the eggs hatch and babies grow.

Butterflies visit my garden and flowering plants. I’d love to add a few more like milkweed to increase butterfly habitat in my yard. Here is a list of native plants used to create a butterfly garden.

Native bees are welcome visitors. I learned at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum you can build them homes to encourage them to visit.

Lizards and geckos. This year our yard has tons of baby lizards. They are only about two inches long and they are so cute! The lizards keep the outdoor cricket population under control. In order to avoid poisoning our lizards, we have not sprayed our home (outdoor foundation) for bugs for the past two years. I haven’t noticed any more bugs inside than before. If you are outside at night, you may also see western banded geckos.

Tortoises. To complete your native Sonoran desert habitat, why not add a tortoise? Although desert tortoises are not available for sale, did you know you can adopt one?

Snakes generally aren’t welcome in your yard. But if you see a non-venomous snake kindly escort it out without killing it.

Rabbits can be pests. They are welcome in my (unfenced) front yard, but not in the back. I put 1/4 inch wire cage around young plants to protect them from bunnies. My veggie garden is in the back yard.

Round-tailed ground squirrels aren’t welcome in my yard (even if they are native). These guys eat roots out from underneath cacti when they get hungry and dig tunnels everywhere. Rat poison has worked to keep them from colonizing my back yard, and our neighborhood population isn’t high enough to decimate any of my front yard plants.

Ants can bite, but they are termites’ mortal enemies and will keep them at bay. They also provide food for other wildlife. I prefer to allow a healthy stable number of ant colonies remain in the yard.

Termites hide underground and aren’t seen often, but they are there. Rock mulch seems to make the ground more hospitable to termites and less to ants.

Black widows love the cracks in the block wall fence. The easiest way to control them is to go out at night and squash or spray them.

Scorpions love to hide in organic leaf litter and grass thatch. I believe that having a native landscape instead of a lawn decreases scorpion habitat. One more reason to plant native!

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