When you look out into your garden, courtyard or balcony, what wildlife do you see? If the answer is the just the odd fly, then there could be easy changes you can make to turn your patch into a healthier habitat; and Council can help.

Biodiversity corridors in Waverley are fragmented and therefore our habitat areas don’t connect. This makes it hard for wildlife to move around to feed and reproduce, and presents barriers for plant pollination, germination and dispersal. Our small birds, like the Superb fairy-wren and the New Holland honeyeater, are subsequently mostly confined to the coastal reserves.

According to Holly Parsons, Birdlife Australia’s Urban Bird Program Manager, small birds, once the most common birds prior to 1900, have declined dramatically along the east coast of NSW over the last 20 years. Whilst ecologist Renée Ferster Levy, who has been conducting bird surveys in the area for 30 years, has found that in some areas of Waverley, small birds such as the Superb fairy-wren, have gone from being abundant to disappearing completely.

It’s not just bird species in decline. Three of the four species of microbat in Waverley are listed as threatened in NSW. These tiny mammals, that nest in cliff crevices and under tree bark, rely on invertebrates to feed on. Another now seldom seen, insect eating local, the Blue-tongue lizard, is listed as vulnerable in NSW.

Large Bentwing Bat Holly says that expanding urban development, garden size and style have had a large impact on small bird numbers. Without suitable habitat to shelter in, small birds are open to predation from other birds, cats and foxes for example.

Some of the larger, more aggressive birds such as the Noisy miner, have benefited from changes to the urban landscape and have increased in numbers. With a lack of dense shrubs, smaller birds cannot flee to a safe place, and they are driven from the area, Renée explained. In addition, a lack of flowering native plants in private gardens means fewer native insects, which Holly says are the corner stone of a wildlife friendly garden, as they pollinate plants and provide food for other animals such as lizards and micro bats.

Private gardens offer a great opportunity to support wildlife and help connect our local habitat corridors. Council is now expanding our Living Connections program to help residents across Waverley adapt their garden spaces to create the right environments for local wildlife to thrive in balance.

Council is providing online guidance, native plants and targeted support to enable gardeners of all skills levels to create habitat.  In this way the community can actively participate in protecting and supporting local biodiversity, and reconnect isolated populations of birds and other species.

Our pilot Living Connections program helped to create over 160 local habitat gardens on private land, and we are keen to support our broader community to establish more spaces that provide natural food and shelter for wildlife to contribute to a healthy local ecosystem.

birds using bird bath amongst native plants There is no need to turn your whole garden over to habitat creation, although it would be wonderful if you did! You can start small in one corner of the garden or along one garden bed. You can even add a collection of potted native plants to a balcony. Check the new Waverley Garden Habitat Guide  to find out how.

To get started, here are our top five tips for a habitat garden:

  1. Plant diverse species, of different heights and habits including some dense shrubs for small birds to hide from predators including other birds.
  2. Cluster plant to achieve density and choose plants that flower at different times of the year.
  3. Keep cats indoors or create a pen.
  4. Mulch, grasses and groundcovers help retain moisture in the soil and attract insects for lizards and insectivore birds to feed on.
  5. Cut out pesticide and other chemicals to allow wildlife to feed on the insects.

You can apply to join Living Connections here.

Author: Vicky Bachelard, Sustainable Engagement Officer, Waverley Council