There is something satisfying about relaxing in the backyard and watching the birds come and go, butterflies fluttering in the wind, and bees pollinating the flowers. The populations of many species are struggling with loss of habitat and food sources, but you can easily turn your own yard into a mini sanctuary for a variety of desert wildlife.
It does not take much to attract a variety of birds to your backyard, but you can offer them some things that encourage them to stick around a little longer. A clean birdbath and shelter in trees or an oleander hedges are enough to make most birds happy. A little birdseed does not hurt, either. You can attract hummingbirds by hanging a feeder, but keep it out of direct sunlight, clean it often and do not use red dye or fruit juice.
Attract a wide range of butterflies with flowering plants, especially red, yellow, orange, pink and purple ones. They prefer flowers that are flat-topped or clustered with short flower tubes. Place a few flat rocks in the garden where they can rest and warm their wings. Create a damp puddle with coarse sand in an area that is kept moist. Go a step further by planting some milkweed for Monarchs, the only plant they’ll use for laying their eggs.
One of the largest threats to bees is a lack of safe habitat where they can build their homes and find nutritious food sources. Although flowering plants provide a good source of food, bees get most of their nectar from trees, a place where they also find nesting materials and shelter. Fill a shallow bird bath or bowl with clean water and pebbles or stones that break the water’s surface where they can land. Most bees are solitary, so add a bee “condo”, especially if you don’t have trees where they can shelter. Become a bee scientist on the citizen scientist app iNaturalist.
Bats are a great form of organic pest control, especially for those annoying mosquitos and the insect that like to raid your vegetable garden. Plant fragrant night-blooming flowers and herbs to attract them. A birdbath or fountain is a great way for them to replenish the large amount of water they lose each day. Although trees are their natural habitat, you can also build or purchase a bat house to give them a private place to live. For more details on caring for you bat house, visit https://www.worldbirds.org/how-to-attract-bats/
Arizona Game & Fish allows Arizona residents to adopt captive desert tortoises that cannot be released back into the wild where they can transmit disease. These untraditional pets can live 80-100 years and need a long-term care plan from their owners. For more information on adoption, visit https://www.worldbirds.org/how-to-attract-bats/