Zilker Neighborhood Gardens

Commentary by a National Wildlife Steward who helps Zilker neighbors establish native plant gardens

What is a Certified Wildlife Habitat? and…a Challenge for Zilker!

As a National Wildlife Foundation Habitat Steward, my volunteer training is aimed at increasing awareness of creating wildlife habitats – this could happen in your yard, on a balcony, at a school, at a fire station, at a neighborhood grocery store.

A wildlife habitat sounds kind of scary and maybe difficult. I mean, think of the wild places you’ve been like Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone, or Big Bend – they are vast. But the size is not important. What is important are 5 key features that must be in place to ensure you are supporting wildlife – and these features are not that difficult to establish.

  1. Provide food. Native shrubs, trees, and flowers provide nectar, berries, seeds, and nuts for wildlife. You could do supplementary feeding with bird feeders or nectar sources like a hummingbird feeder (though these are not necessary and require more expense and maintenance).
  2. Supply water. Wildlife need water, too! This is especially important here in Texas where it’s quite hot. Water can be supplied in a birdbath (refilled), in ponds, puddles, or rain gardens. It doesn’t need to be fancy – a big bowl of water in the garden works.
  3. Create cover. Animals need places to sleep, hide, and have protection from predators. Again, native shrubs, trees, and even piles of brush or a tree stump or dead tree provide cover.
  4. Provide a place to raise young. The cover in #3 often work for some animals to raise young. But you can also think about providing bushes where birds raise their young, or where butterflies and moths lay eggs, or supplying bird houses or bat houses.
  5. Garden sustainably. Reduce chemical use, increase composting, use lots of mulch, installing rain gardens to funnel rain to seep into planting areas rather than go into the gutter.

To certify your habitat, you complete a simple online form. Normally, it costs $20 (plus a little more if you want a yard sign), but the City of Austin has free pre-paid forms you can use, saving you the $20. Remember, it does not need to be a yard – it could even be a condo’s front porch or apartment balcony!

You can even certify your property with a Pre-Paid NWF habitat certification application courtesy of the City of Austin. Email wildlife@ci.austin.tx.us for an application today. Please include your mailing address and phone number in your request.

I am in the process of working on my own yard in order to certify it as a NWF habitat (you’ll see more of my progress on that on the blog). Would you certify your yard, too? I can help give you advice and educate you on the process – feel free to email me (Joan) at zilkergardens @ gmail.com.

I would like to start the Neighborhood Habitat Challenge for Zilker in 2011 … how many habitats can we certify? Are you in? Look at the winners from past years in Austin. Last year, Bouldin Creek certified 14 habitats! I know Zilker can do more than that in 2011.

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One response to “What is a Certified Wildlife Habitat? and…a Challenge for Zilker!

  1. Pingback: Purple Martin Sanctuary: A National Wildlife Habitat in Zilker « Zilker Neighborhood Gardens

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