Wildlife gardening means providing the conditions in your green space that are attractive to animals such as birds, butterflies, and bees. All animals need food, water, and a safe place to raise their young. Insects, which we need to pollinate our plants, and bats which pollinate and control pests, are not exceptions. Over the past several years, the Parkallen Community Garden has been adding feeders and nesting boxes for beneficial animals.
Above is a wren house (yet to be occupied), a watering station for birds and insects, and a large bird feeder with mess-free birdseed. Food + Shelter + Water = Wildlife Gardening.
The Parkallen Community Garden neighbours our outdoor community hockey rink.
16 feet high on a lamp post that lights our rink in the winter, we’ve hung a bathouse. It’s been constructed especially for this location by a local bat enthusiast and conservationist, Robert Danner. Little Brown Bats (our local species) are mammals and need a safe place to nurse their newborn babies in the spring time. A bat house serves as a nursery for moms and pups. There is a roof over-head but no floor — they enter from below and hang on to the rough interior surface with their claws. They huddle together for warmth and companionship. Bats only occupy a bat house in the springtime. Bat colonies over-winter elsewhere. Little Brown Bats eat mosquitoes, among other insects.
To answer some FAQ’s – No, the house doesn’t come with bats. After discovering the house, if they like it, local bats will move in next Spring or the Spring after that. Bats and people have been peacefully co-existing for all of human history, and bats have only recently developed a reputation for being scary and unclean. Little Brown Bats are extremely shy and would never attack humans or pets. They are wild animals though, and belong outside, not in our homes. Common sense tells us to never approach a sick or dead bat, and not to handle it’s feces. Learn more about bats in Alberta from Alberta Conservation.
This is our owl house, which we hope will be attractive to a Saw Whet owl. We’ve seen Great Horned owls in the neighbourhood, but they wouldn’t nest in a house like this. Great Horneds like the crotches of trees. Note that this nesting box has a large, owl-sized opening. If a local owl likes this home, she may lay her eggs in it next Spring.
We’ve lined the inside with wood shavings. Thanks, Robert! And hung it as high as possible under the eaves of our Community League, facing South. It’s a warm, protected location with a fairly clear view and a good swoop zone.
Thanks, Seth for installing it! We know that’s an unlikely an owl will use this home, but an owl house was high on a list of must-haves according to Parkallen School kids. You might like to see a baby saw whet owl on You-Tube.
We’ve also created a nest box or bee hotel for wild bees. Unlike honeybees, wild bees are solitary. They don’t swarm or sting, they are most likely to flee or retreat from a human. They’re very safe and are, in a healthy ecosystem, all around us. A wild mother bee would occupy a single tube (like the hollow stalk of a flower) to hatch her babies in. She needs a shelter to house her young, who she fetches pollen for all Spring. Like the other nest boxes, this one would be inhabited only when the mothers are raising babies, and not throughout the year. It doesn’t come with bees — but if they like it, they’ll use it to keep their babies sheltered and safe. Our garden needs pollinators to make food for us. Diverse pollinators and a diverse, stable food-supply go hand in hand. Learn more about building a bee hotel and about solitary bees from the National Geographic Society.
This nesting box may be a home for a native songbird, such as a a wren or a chickadee. Sparrows (a non-native species) are very aggressive nesters and good at crowding out native songbird species in Edmonton. Sparrows are like the dandelions of the bird world. This birdhouse has a restrictor over the hole. The hole-size restrictor will hopefully make the nesting box unattractive to sparrows, and perfect for chickadees or wrens. Native songbird species could really use a leg-up in YEG. When you’re building or buying a birdhouse or nesting box in Edmonton, remember, the hole-size matters. Do some research to attract the right bird to your yard.
Above is another nesting box for a native songbird hung high in a pine tree at the Parkallen Community Garden.
Wondering how we got these boxes up? We had a little help…
Thanks to the City of Edmonton for a lift when we needed one. And…
Thanks to all the Parkallen Community Gardeners who helped with the installations and especially to Brent Flesher (above) who will continue to monitor the nesting boxes. Thanks to the World Wild Life Fund for purchasing the nesting boxes as part of a Green CommUnity Award to Parkallen School. Thanks to Linda and Kathy at Parkallen School for their help administering the grant money. Thanks to the Parkallen Community League for supporting these projects in our community, and especially Anne Pratt for leading our community consultation.
These wildlife gardening projects and this blog post were created by Marlene Wurfel, Parkallen Community Garden Director. These nestboxes will not save the environment and the species they are meant to help out. But to build, install and maintain these nesting boxes for wild wings, I’ve learned so much about what wildlife needs in our urban landscape. It’s my hope that these projects will continue to teach Edmontonians about what our urban wildlife needs to survive and thrive.
Drop by the Parkallen Community Garden where visitors are welcome any time to see our “Nesting Boxes for Wild Wings” projects. Check out our bee condo for solitary bees, bat box for nursing moms and pups, owl box and bird houses for native songbirds.