HABITAT - the arrangement of food, water, cover,
and space -IS THE KEY! This
newsletter is a place to share ideas, information, and help answer
some of your habitat and wildlife gardening concerns.
Native Plant Profile......Eastern Red Cedar
40-50’ height. Needs full sun. Will grow on a variety of soils and sites ranging
from dry hillsides to swamps.
Flowers/Fruits: Inconspicuous flowers born in March, become fruit in September.
Fruit persists into March, making cedars an excellent winter and early spring
Uses: Screening, windbreak, backdrop for other plantings,
sometimes used for topiaries.
Landscape Concerns: Do not plant near apple trees, quinces, hawthorns and
mountain ashes. Cedars sometimes are hosts to “rusts”, diseases that can infect
the trees mentioned.
Cedars are Food for: Turkey, Ruffed Grouse,
Bobwhite Quail, Ring-necked Pheasant, Mourning Dove, Common Flicker,
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (sap), Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Phoebe, Alder
Flycatcher, Tree Swallow, Common Crow, Fish Crow, Mockingbird, Gray Catbird,
Brown Thrasher, American Robin, Hermit Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush, Eastern
Bluebird, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Cardinal, Evening Grosbeak,
Purple Finch, Pine Grosbeak, White-winged Crossbill, Fox Sparrow. All use the
Cedars are Cover for: Turkey, Ruffed Grouse,
Bobwhite Quail, Ring-necked Pheasant, Screech Owl, Mockingbird, Gray Catbird,
Brown Thrasher, American Robin, eastern Bluebird, Cedar waxwing, Yellow-rumped
Warbler, Common Grackle, Cardinal, Pine Grosbeak, Purple Finch, Evening
Grosbeak, White-winged Crossbill, Chipping Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Fox Sparrow,
Cedars are Nest Trees for: Mockingbird,
Brown Thrasher, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, Common Grackle, Cardinal,
Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow.
Note: Sixty- six species of wildlife use
Cats and Wildlife?
Many cats are enthusiastic predators. As backyard
wildlife enthusiasts, many of whom own cats, we wonder how much impact pet or
stray cats have on our native wildlife. It is difficult to invest in food and
plants for songbirds and other small animals, only to have them become prey to
wild or domestic predators. What impact do cats have as predators on wildlife
There is a lot of myth surrounding the predatory impact
of cats on wildlife. A number of studies have suggested that cats kill billions
of small mammals and birds each year in the U.S. However, these studies involve
either a very small number of cats and their prey or cats outside the U.S.
Factors that may be unique to cats in various habitats have not been included in
Rural culture in the country has put the blame of
declining quail, and pheasant populations on predators, including cats. Growing
research indicates, however, that populations of these birds are declining due
to habitat loss. And even in our own backyards, wildlife falls prey to many
predators, including crows, hawks, fox, raccoons and opossums, as well as cats.
Although predation may disturb us in our backyards, we just don’t know if it is
a major factor in the health of backyard wildlife populations.
One of the ecological issues pointed out by scientists
regarding cats is that domestic cats are not native predators and have not
evolved with their prey species. A fully functioning predator/prey relationship
would sustain both populations.
This perfect fit may not exist for native wildlife in
relation to our domestic cats. Internationally, domestic cats have contributed
to the decline and even extinction of some species, especially in islands and
other confined spaces. In the U.S., it is not as clear whether cats are having
an impact on wildlife populations. However some of the species known to be
favored cat food, including moles and shrews are of concern to wildlife
In Florida, cats have preyed upon burrowing owls, which
prefer the loosened soil of new suburban development for digging burrows and
laying eggs. In such localized populations of wildlife species, pressure from
new predators could be disastrous.
There are an estimated 65 million pet cats in the U.S.
About half of them are allowed outdoors. Even if each cat only killed one animal
each year, the numbers are staggering, about 30 million small animals killed
each year. While it is not good science to make these kinds of guesses, it does
give us something to think about. Without hard data for Maryland, or for the
U.S. showing predation, let alone domestic cats, as a significant factor in the
decline of wildlife, it is hard to justify the placement of such a burden on
cats. Populations of bird species are measure red annually in the US. Fish and
Wildlife Service’s Breeding Bird Survey. Decline of some species (wrens,
woodpeckers, chickadees, etc) seems to be related to the availability of nest
sites because they have to compete with more aggressive and non-native house
sparrows and European starlings. Bird species that are declining are those that
need large forests, meadows or wetlands.
Backyard mammals, like rabbits, squirrels, raccoons,
opossums and fox seem to be doing well. For the most part, wildlife species
populations respond to habitat availability. If habitats are available,
populations thrive. Although predation can be stressful for certain species, it
does not generally seem to be a major problem for most wildlife species. Of
course it is a huge problem for an individual animal taken by a predator, but
the conservation of wildlife includes the role that predators play in the health
Wisdom for Cat Owners
Cats are safer indoors. An indoor cat is protected
from traffic, cat fights, dogs, ticks, fleas, traps, poisons and diseases
carried by other cats and wildlife
Cats can be happy indoors. They can play, prowl, and
pounce indoors with toys. Never leave cats outdoors unsupervised.
Indoors cats are healthier, happier and longer-lived
than those who roam. For more information on making your outdoor cat a safe and
happy indoor cat, read about the American Bird Conservancy Cat’s Indoors!
Build a Hibernacula for Amphibians
Anyone with a backyard pond knows that it does not take long for frogs and toads
to find the oasis. Some of the amphibians that will visit a backyard pond
include the Red-Spotted Newt, American Toad, Fowler’s Toad, Green Frogs and
Leopard Frogs. All pose no threat to pond fish. Predatory fish such as
bluegills will eat amphibian larva. Most ponds only provide summer breeding
habitat. Amphibians need places to hibernate as well, particularly in recently
urbanized areas where natural habitats have been destroyed or severely degraded.
Photo by John White
The English Nature-Scottish Natural Heritage and the
Countryside Council for Wales have these plans on how to build amphibian
hibernacula on well-drained sites, poorly- drained sites and incorporated in a
garden pond rockery.
Photo by John White
Dig a hole 18” deep – total area should be a minimum
of two yards.
Fill with whole and half brick rubble so there are
plenty of spaces among the rubble. Also mix leaf litter and bits of wood for
Place flagstone, concrete slabs or other flat heavy
material covering the edge of the bricks. Make sure there are entry gaps
leading under the flagstone.
Cover the entire area with soil making sure the entry
gaps remain clear.
Top with straw. For the garden pond, the edge can be
planted with rock garden plants, such as sedums, as long as entry gaps remain
open. Trees and garden plantings near the pond provide important habitat for
herps during the terrestrial part of their life cycle.
Let us know how your hibernacula is doing!
Logpiles for Butterflies
Butterfly hibernation boxes are often touted as a means
of providing shelter for overwintering adult butterflies. Hibernation boxes in
Europe have been successful, but do they work with American species? There still
are no successes to date, and many national authorities such as the National
Wildlife Federation and the North American Butterfly Association are conducting
trials with various box types.
Butterflies that overwinter in Maryland include
anglewings such as Question Marks and Commas so named for the punctuation marks
featured on their wings. These species search for exfoliating bark of trees,
tree hollows and rock crevices or cracks and crevices in buildings to
hibernate. Fermenting tree sap, animal dung, and rotting fruit are the main
food items of these butterflies, although some will visit flowers.
Question Mark Butterfly
Several years ago Wild Acres participant Fanilya Gueno
sent information on how to build a butterfly logpile that may serve as roosting
and overwintering habitat in lieu of a box. The logpile should be placed
crosswise log cabin style to provide as many crevices as possible. The overall
dimensions should be three to five feet high and three to six feet long
depending on the space you have available.
Logpiles should be placed in the shade near nectar
flowers and host plants. Question Mark host plants include nettles, hackberries,
and hops. Nectar sources are aster, sweet pepperbush, rotting fruit and running
tree sap. Comma host plants are hops, nettles and nectar sources are rotting
fruit, showy stonecrop and dandelion.
If you build one of these logpiles the Wild Acres
program would love to hear from you! Contact me at
you might see your logpile and a story in Habichat.
Gray Comma Butterfly
- Photos of Green Frog & Fowler's Toad, courtesy of John White.
- Photos of Eastern Red Cedars courtesy of Paul Wray, Iowa State
- Illustration of Log Pile courtesy of Edith Thompson.
- Photos of Question Mark and Gray Comma butterflies courtesy of Jerry A.
Payne, USDA ARS, www.insectimages.org
Here is a listing of phone numbers, web sites and organizations that you might find helpful or interesting in your search for ideas to manage your wild acres.
DNR Online... Inspired by nature!
National Wildlife Federation - Details on their backyard habitat program www.nwf.org or call them at 1-800-822-9919.
Native plants - The Maryland Native Plant Society offers information dedicated to protecting, conserving and restoring Maryland's native plants and habitats, visit them at
Maryland Cooperative Extension offers home and garden information, tips publications, plant problems, Bay issues, and other links at
Their Home and Garden Information number is statewide and can be reached at
1-800-342-2507, and from outside Maryland at 1-410-531-1757.
Maryland's "Becoming an Outdoors - Woman Program
"- One of the topics covered in the three-day workshops is Backyard
For a free wildlife & native
plant newsletter, visit the WindStar Wildlife Institute at
and subscribe to the WindStar Wildlife Garden Weekly e-newsletter. You can
also visit this website to learn how you can become a certified wildlife habitat
For more information on butterflies - visit the North American Butterfly Association at
Warm season grasses and wild meadows for upland nesting birds visit Pheasants
Forever at www.pheasantsforever.org or e-mail:
We want to hear from you!
Letters, e-mail, photos, drawings. Let us know how
successful you are as you create wildlife habitat on
Write to Me!
Natural Resources Biologist II
Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service
MD Dept of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Ave., E-1
Annapolis MD 21401
Habichat, the newsletter for Wild Acres participants, is published by the
Wildlife and Heritage Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
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