Meet the neighbours!

About your wild animals

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These are the animals your HabitART has been designed for.  A word of warning though, there is no guarantee the animal you expect will be the one who moves in.... A Red Cap might find a Rosella box irresistible.  You may also find you need to try a couple of different locations and wait patiently before you welcome a new neighbour.

Parrots

Australia is blessed with a fabulous collection of parrots – too many to name here.  In the south west we commonly see three smaller species, the eye-popping scarlet Western Rosella (Platycercus icterotis), the purple pantalooned Red Cap (Purpureicephalus spurius) and the onomatopoeic 28! (Barnardius semitorquatus).

These parrots all prefer to nest in tree hollows – and here lies the challenge.  Suitable sized tree hollows may take 50 to 100 years to form and a combination of urban development, tree clearing and fires has seen the number of available hollows plummet.  Further complicating the challenge is competition for the hollows from newcomers such as feral honeybees and more aggressive species from other regions, such as the Pink and Grey galah and Rainbow lorikeet.

This is where you and your new Parrot Palace can play a part.  Your nest box, installed correctly and maintained regularly (please see the Installation + Maintenance page) has the potential to help relieve the feathered real estate shortage and provide the chance for a pair to raise a family.

If you are lucky enough to welcome feathered neighbours, you should see them shopping for real estate in Winter ahead of the Spring nesting season.  You can welcome them by:
 

  • Keeping cats indoors at all times;

  • Managing box intruders;

  • Planting habitat in your garden for food and shelter, and

  • Providing a safe and clean birdbath.

 

More information on birds and nest issues from expert sources can be found at the links right.

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Pet Cats kill 230 million native animals each year - The Gaurdian, May 2020.

Owls

Owls have something of a mystical presence and bring such pleasure when spotted in a garden.  Their otherworldly status is embedded in the legends of cultures around the world where their ‘magical’ ability to see in the dark, supernatural hearing and near silent flight has entwined them in myths of messengers from the dead.  The plural for owls is a Parliament – which is a nod to their wise gaze and stately manner, and in Greek myth the owl is the symbol for Athena, the goddess of wisdom.

Australia is home to hawk owls (genus Ninox) and barn owls (Tyto) – with their beautiful heart-shaped faces. Perhaps the best known hawk owl is the Boobook who’s soft ‘Boo-bok’ call is lovely to hear at night.  We also have the unrelated Frogmouth, which is sometimes called an owl, and the owlet-nightjar. 

Most of the owls and the owlet are hollow nesting birds, but they will occasionally roost in a cave or out-building.  Like many of our other Australian hollow nesting animals, large and protected hollows are becoming harder to find.  Suitable sized tree hollows may take 50 to 100 years to form and a combination of urban development, tree clearing and wildfires has seen the number of available hollows plummet.  Further complicating the challenge is competition for the hollows from newcomers such as feral honeybees and more aggressive species from other regions, such as the Pink and Grey galah and Rainbow lorikeet.

This is where you and your new nest box can play a part.  Your nest box, installed correctly and maintained regularly (please see the Installation + Maintenance page) has the potential to help relieve the feathered real estate shortage and provide the chance for an owl to raise a family.  Owls will breed whenever prey is abundant and in Spring, and usually raise between 2 and 4 chicks.

If you are lucky enough to have owls near your home, you can welcome them by:

  • Keeping cats indoors at all times and dogs inside at night;

  • Managing box intruders, sometimes possums will find an owl box irresistible, you may need to put up a second box…. ;

  • Avoiding baiting for rats - owls who ingest a poisoned rat will most likely die;

  • Planting habitat in your garden for shelter, and

  • Providing a safe and clean birdbath.

 

More information on birds and nest issues from expert sources can be found at the links right.

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Ants have set up a colony in this bird box, making it impossible to nest in.

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Micro-Bats

This tiny little mammal can eat up to 500 insects an hour, vacuuming up pesky mosquitos and zipping around your garden hunting crawling bugs.  It uses its amazing powers of echolocation to hunt which enables them to swoop around trees and snaffle a tasty meal on the wing.

 

Microbats make up an incredible 20% of Australia’s mammals, there are 37 species in WA and over half of these are ‘tree-roosting’ which means they rely on tree hollows for shelter, sleep and breeding.  Tree hollows mainly form in Eucalyptus trees and it can take up to 100 years for a decent size hollow to develop.  Unfortunately for the microbat – and many other of our native critters – clearing, urbanisation, competition with feral honey bees and removal of mature trees in gardens has drastically reduced available hollows – this is why your country needs you and your microbat-friendly garden!

 

But more on our batty friends – they are nocturnal, and so the best time to spot them is just on dusk.  They are tiny, usually less than 6cm long and the smallest weigh only 3gms!  Females usually raise one ‘pup’ per year in the warmth of Spring or Summer.  The newborn attaches to a nipple in the mother’s wing-pit until it is large enough to ‘hang’ on its own.  Your roost landing pad has foot-holds for them to climb in and out of the roost while they are learning to fly.

 

How do they hang and sleep you ask?  Care of an amazing adaption which sees the tendons in their feet lock into a grip as their body weight pulls down at rest.  Hanging to roost also allows them to ‘fall’ into flight, as they can’t generate the lift needed to take off from the ground. 

 

Do they have batty superpowers?  Yes!  For example Ozimops petersi , the Inland free-tailed bat can tolerate the most extreme range of body temperatures of any known mammal. Its body temperature has been recorded as low as 3.3 °C and as high as 45.8 °C.  These bats can survive these otherwise lethal temperature extremes by using torpor, which is very similar to hibernation, also used to conserve energy on days when food is scarce. Most micro-bats use torpor, but only temporarily for a few hours or days at a time.

 

The following bats are just some of those which live in the south west of WA:

 

  • The Western free-tailed bat (Ozimops kitcheneri), usually found foraging in forests and woodlands for insects.  The species is recorded at remnant bushland and roosting in urban structures, and regularly appears in surveys.

  • Gould's Long-eared bat (Nyctophilus gouldi), is a microbat found in a number of other regions of Australia, but in WA - only in a small isolated range in the south-west.

  • The Greater Long-eared bat (Nyctophilus major), is a species found in forests and woodlands of the south west.

  • Southern free-tailed bat (Mormopterus planiceps) found in forests, open woodland, mallee, and shrubland – and more commonly in wet habitats.

 

For more information on Australian bats, see the links right:

Native Bees

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Australian native bees are becoming increasingly valued and 'bee-loved' the more we get to know them.  Unlike introduced European honey bees, they don’t generally build large waxy colonies and are often stingless.  They are a hugely diverse species, many adapted to pollinate a specific plant.  One northern Australian species – known as the Honey Bag bee – can be kept in a hive to produce honey, but all others are more solitary.

 

Native bees can be encouraged into your garden with small structures containing hollows made from bamboo, drilled clay and wood blocks, and soft materials for them to burrow into such as Lantana branches and large fennel stems.  In return they will pollinate, add diversity to your garden – and bring joy.

 

What could be more entertaining than watching a Blue banded bee (Amegilla spp.) in a tomato flower.  These rotund and colourful bees ‘buzz’ pollinate. To quote bee expert Tim Heard; “They take their wings ‘out of gear’ and ‘rev the engine’ to vibrate their entire body while holding tightly to a flower”. The result is a loud buzz and a shower of pollen.  Many plants need buzz pollination to set seed and we are increasingly understanding the importance of biodiversity and a robust insect population to food production.

 

In the south west of Western Australia we have several native bee species, including Carpenter bees, Blue-banded bees, Resin bees, Leaf-cutter bees and the oh-too-cute Teddy bear bee.  So, to the question; ‘To be, or not to be?’
The answer is of course – To Bee!

 

To bring more native bees into your garden, you can:

 

  • Install Bee Hotels;

  • Avoid pesticides;

  • Provide a clean water source;

  • Plant for pollen, nectar and habitat – particularly native plants such as eucalypts, bottlebrushes and pea species, and

  • Allow wildness in your garden – let things go to flower and seed, tolerate some chaos, celebrate the leaf-cutter bee!

 

More information on Australian native bees from expert sources can be found at the links right.

 A Blue banded bee collecting pollen from a tomato flower.

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Ringtail Possums

Made internationally famous by Dame Edna Everage's Hello Possums!  These little creatures are perhaps one of the most engaging native mammals, some are even heart-meltingly cute and equally endangered.

 

There are 27 possum (and related glider) species in Australia, ranging in size from the roof-thumping Brushtailed possum to the dainty Honey possum (Tarsipes rostratus).  The south west of Western Australia is home to the critically endangered Western ringtailed possum (Pseudocheirus occidentalis)

 

Ringtails have been caught in a pincer movement between a catastrophic loss of habitat and predation by foxes and cats.  They give birth in winter, usually to a single joey which needs to remain with its mother for 7 or 8 months.  We are close to losing this beautiful nocturnal animal, but perhaps you can help throw this little creature a lifeline.

 

Ringtails build a collection of neat nest spheres called ‘dreys’, usually in their tree of choice, the peppermint (Agonis flexuosa), but often in melaleucas and other dense canopy trees.  They will however use other places to nest in their search for a safe place to curl up and snooze, often a roof cavity – and so sometimes run into trouble with their human hosts.

This is where you and your new Possum Pod can play a part.  Your pod, installed correctly and maintained regularly (please see the Installation + Maintenance page) has the potential to help provide a safe space for an animal with few other options.
 

If you are lucky enough to welcome a Ringtail to your garden, you can support them by:

  • Keeping cats indoors at all times and dogs inside at night;

  • Never trapping and relocating a possum to another site;

  • Avoiding baiting for snails and rats;

  • Planting habitat in your garden for food, tree canopy access and shelter, and

  • Providing a safe and clean place to drink, particularly in summer.

 

More information on possums from expert sources can be found at the links right.

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A pair of Ringtails head out  at dusk to forage .

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Small Birds

Research is revealing that Australian birds have a unique place in the Planet’s natural history.  Scientists now believe that all songbirds originated here, and that Australia is home to some of the most intelligent birds in the world - we think we also have some of the most beautiful.    Each year Birdlife Australia conducts the Aussie Backyard Bird Count and collects votes for the Bird of the Year, and each year our little favourites poll in the top ten. Blue Wrens, Willy wagtails and Finches are regular vote winners and visit our gardens in south west WA with other small birds such as the Pardalote, Golden whistler and the raucous and bossy New Holland honeyeater.

Some of these birds are hollow nesting, the Pardalote being one example, while others weave their nests in a variety of shapes and styles. What they all have in common is a need for protective habitat. Dense shrubs, safe look-out perches, flowering and fruiting native plants, grasses for nests, protection from domestic cats and fresh water.

If you can provide these things, in return they will snap up insects in your garden, sing you their songs and if you are lucky, show a flash of brilliant colour as they flit about their business.

You can welcome these little neighbours by;

 

  • Keeping cats indoors at all times

  • Planting habitat in your garden for food and shelter,

  • Avoiding pruning shrubs and hedges in breeding season, and

  • Providing a safe and clean birdbath.



Feeding wild birds is a contentious issue. Some argue it: habituates birds away from foraging; tips the breeding number balance; spreads disease if bowls aren’t spotless and, may provide a ‘fast food joint’ for cats, who learn where birds are visiting and vulnerable.  Others point to the benefits of supplemental food in drought or natural disasters and in urban areas where habitat has been lost.  The current advice seems to be, it’s OK as long as it’s sparing, random, the right food and kept spotlessly clean.  The bird feeders shown on this site can also be used as bird baths for small birds, so it’s up to you to decide what your little garden neighbours need most.

More information on birds from experts can be found in the links provided right.

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A New Holland honeyeater feasting on C. ficifolia.