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Attracting wildlife to your garden

The Adelaide region today is very different from how the European settlers saw it in the 1830’s. Over the years, most of the native vegetation of the Adelaide Plains has been cleared or vastly modified. This loss of natural habitat has resulted in the serious decline in the populations of our native wildlife. Click on the titles of our Backyards for Wildlife Fact Sheets below to find out how you can attract wildlife to your own garden and reinstate some of Adelaide's lost habitat.

New Holland honeyeaters in bathCreating a Habitat Garden

In a good habitat garden you could expect to see a variety of birds, insects, bats, small animals, reptiles and maybe even frogs either living in your garden or visiting from time to time. Unfortunately, most urban gardens are unwelcoming places for native fauna – offering little food and no safe haven, except for perhaps a few species that are favoured by these altered conditions. You can help encourage the return of our native wildlife to our urban environments by creating gardens that offer both shelter and food throughout the year.

Magpie on BirdbathLandscape Elements 

While choosing to plant local native species is a way to provide food for native animals, there are a number of landscaping elements that can also greatly increase the biodiversity of your backyard. The key issues for native fauna are the availability of food, water and shelter.  Provide these features in your garden and you will see a significant increase in the level of native animals and insects using your backyard.

Establishing a Native Garden 

Sedge in bathWater is a valuable and increasingly scarce natural resource and one that we all need to use wisely. Before water restrictions came into effect some households were using up to 70% of household water on the garden. The new water regulations mean that we can no longer afford to be as extravagant and we need to consider how better to plan and manage our gardens.
One of the options available to us is to grow locally native species that have for many millennia grown across the Adelaide region surviving on rainfall alone. The use of indigenous plants will drought-proof your garden, save water and attract local wildlife.

Superb Blue Fairy-wrenEncouraging Birds

Native birds are a wonderful component of native gardens with their varied and often beautiful songs, striking plumage and interesting acrobatics.
Over 270 bird species have been recorded in the Adelaide region, of which 16 are introduced whilst 76 have conservation significance (meaning they are rare, endangered or threatened).  By providing the correct habitat requirements for local birds you will be rewarded with their presence and will be helping to play an important role in the conservation of Adelaide’s diminishing native birdlife.

Creating a Home for Lizards 

Some lizards, such as the larger blue-tongue skinks, are commonly found in suburban gardens where there are rocks, open drains or piles of timber to provide them with shelter. They live on or near the ground, variously feeding on insects and snails which they find in leaf matter and amongst groundcover plants. They also eat plant material especially fruits and flowers like strawberries and cape weed.
Another common suburban lizard is the Marbled Gecko - a small grey arboreal gecko which loves to hunt spiders and insects on the walls of houses on warm evenings. Old sheets of iron or wooden sleepers can be a favourite daytime hiding spot.

FrogsFrog Friendly Gardens

Adelaide once had numerous watercourses making their way across the plains, often ending in wetlands. One species that would have thrived in these moist ecosystems was frogs. These remarkable creatures are great environmental indicators and their decline over the years is due to the significant impacts we have made upon the landscape.
Encouraging frogs is a wonderful way to bring back some of what we have lost and a worthwhile addition to any garden. Native frogs can be attracted or introduced to the backyard landscape in several ways. Creating a pond will encourage native frogs to visit your garden and provide a place for them to reside and breed if the correct conditions are created. Hearing the call of frogs on a warm summer’s evening is a fantastic sound, but remember that not all your neighbours may agree, so be mindful of where you place your pond.

Ringtail Possum FamilySharing the Garden with Possums

Possums are the only marsupials that have been able to thrive in an urban environment. Originally four types of possum were present in Adelaide but these days only two are still typically encountered – the Common Brushtail Possum and the Common Ringtail Possum.  Feather-tail Gliders have become extinct in this area, while Western Pygmy-Possums are occasionally reported in the Adelaide Hills.
Operation Possum is a community-based study through UniSA where researchers aim to find out about possums and how people interact with them. The survey ran from 20 Aug to 20 Nov 2008.  We will link to the results when they become available.


Bringing Butterflies Back 

Butterflies enhance any landscape with movement and colour. Having them flitting about your garden can be a wonderful sight, and they also play an important role in the local ecosystem.
Specific native plants play a key role throughout the various stages of a butterfly’s lifecycle – these plants should be incorporated into your garden to address these specific needs. The female butterfly is usually very selective in the plant she chooses to lay her eggs on and this will be different for each species. Plants essential to the ongoing survival of a particular butterfly species are referred to as the host plant and provide the food requirements for the larvae. Without these essential host plants the particular butterfly species will not be able to reproduce and will therefore disappear from the local environment.
Butterflies are fussy eaters and some species will rely on only one or two plant species for survival. Adult butterflies are nectar feeders. Include a variety of nectar producing plants to ensure there is food available in your garden throughout the year. Main plant foods include sedges, native grasses and mistletoe. Butterflies have an acute sense of smell and will travel vast distances to reach the plant can detect.

male purple spotted gudgeon fanning eggsSupporting Native Fish

While most of our native fish species are small they make up for it by being extremely beautiful and unique. Their size also means that they are ideally suited to aquariums and backyard ponds. Native fish can be introduced into your garden pond and provide an attractive and environmentally friendly alternative to goldfish and other ornamental and exotic species that can have a devastating impact on Adelaide’s natural aquatic environments. They are also available in a wide range of shapes and colours. Why not consider native fish as a preferred option for your pond?

Bats in your Backyard

Bats are an extremely important part of the urban ecosystem. They play a critical ecological role through their ability to act as an environmentally friendly insect control. Bats can also be used as indicators for ecosystem health. Creating and improving habitat for bats will also provide habitat for other wildlife.


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Page last updated - Wednesday 10-Aug-11