Secrets to turning your home into a bird refuge revealed at Friday’s wildlife series presentation

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Planting flowering trees and shrubs is a good start to creating a backyard habitat for wildlife, which will be the topic of Friday’s wildlife series presentation by Arizona Game and Fish at Kingman Library. The National Wildlife Federation has a grading system to certify backyard habitats.

Living in the Mojave Desert has its perks, like looking outside your window and spotting a cottontail in your backyard, or watching a mother quail and her chicks march past your home.

Dee Kephart, habitat program manager for Arizona Game and Fish Department, will talk about building a “Backyard Habitat” in the final presentation of this summer’s wildlife series at 6 p.m. Friday at Kingman Library, 3269 Burbank St.

The presentation is free and open to the public, but seating is limited to about 50 people.

“I like to talk about what wildlife they may come across and what are the stressors like development, like drought,” Kephart said Friday from Game and Fish regional offices in Kingman.

“I try to be all-encompassing with the animals they may come across in the backyard and what they can do to attract birds, the different types of feeders.”

Debbie Rusk, assistant librarian in Kingman, said she has a backyard habitat on her 1-acre property that’s certified by the National Wildlife Federation using a point system for water sources, trees and shrubbery and other features that nurture wildlife and protect them from prey.

“They go onto Google Earth and look at your yard. I have old trees, citrus and pomegranate, and I don’t spray a lot,” Rusk said. “I have a pile of bramble and yard debris and the quail just love it because they’re protected from predators. A lot of things eat baby quail.”

Everyone, especially those who like having birds visit their yards and gardens, can take steps to make their home a safer place for the birds.

“Birds are part of a healthy ecosystem,” said Spencer Schock, founder of WindowAlert, a company that sells decals and UV liquid that deters birds from flying into windows.

“Turning your home into a refuge for birds is good for the environment, saves lives and can add beauty to your garden,” he said.

They also eat the bugs, librarian Rusk added.

Bare Necessities

Kephart said the primary requirements for a backyard habitat are a continuous source of water, food and shelter. That’s what wildlife need to survive in the community.

“One of the things we do is show folks how to build a bat home and bird feeders,” she said. “People on the outskirts of town want to attract great-horned owls and barn owls to reduce the rodent population.”

Bats are the best at controlling night-flying insects such as mosquitoes, moths and beetles. One bat can catch up to 600 mosquitoes in an hour, and they’re fun to watch flying around light posts at night.

To convert your garden into a bird paradise, start by planting a variety of bird-friendly vegetation. Trees, shrubs and flowers provide both nourishment and shelter. Be a good environmental steward and choose species native to the region.

And if you have cats, keep them away. They’re natural bird hunters, so if possible, build an outdoor area that’s enclosed for your cat to roam.

Here is what your “wildlife garden” should include, according to the National Wildlife Federation:

Food. Native plants provide nectar, seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, foliage pollen and insects. Feeders can supplement natural food sources.

Water. All animals need water to survive, and some need it for bathing and breeding as well.

Cover. Wildlife needs a place to seek shelter from bad weather and predators.

Place to raise young. Some species have totally different habitat needs in their juvenile phase than they do as adults.

Sustainable practices. How you manage your garden can have everlasting effects on the soil, air, water and native wildlife habitat, as well as the human community.

Arizona Game and Fish’s wildlife series started a few years ago and has gradually increased in popularity, Kephart said. Last year saw overflow crowds of 50 to 60 people for presentations on venomous critters, desert quail and desert tortoises.

“It’s nice to see people come out and enjoy it and it’s something we want to continue,” the wildlife manager said. “It’s an education opportunity for our department and something the community enjoys.”

For more information, call the Arizona Game and Fish at 928-692-7700 or the Kingman Library at 928-692-2665.

StatePoint Media contributed to this article.