HabiChat: Winter 2020

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Photo of cedar waxwing

Vol. 24, No. 1 | Winter 2020

Happy New Year, HabiChat fans!

Winter can be a tough time of year for many of our local wildlife species. You can give them a hand by creating habitat and providing natural foods. In this winter edition of HabiChat, learn about Cedar Waxwings, a lovely resident bird that can be found in backyards, as well as our native inkberry holly that provides important cover. In addition, this issue also includes articles on Winter Greens for Wildlife, Eastern Screech Owl Nest Boxes, and how to help with the third Maryland-DC Breeding Bird Atlas.  

Winter is also a time for maintenance projects, so don’t forget to clean out and repair nest boxes and prune your shrubs and trees. If you are feeding birds, please make sure to keep those feeders clean. In addition, water is crucial to many species this time of year. Consider adding a heated bird bath or pet water bowl to your landscape to help local wildlife. If you are looking for fun projects to do with the kids, why not go on a winter safari or make seed wreaths for the birds. 

Finally, I am pleased to announce that we have completed the Simple School Wildlife Garden Guide. The guide contains basic information on how to start a school wildlife garden and includes suggested plants and designs for three types of gardens: a monarch garden, a songbird garden, and a pollinator garden. The guide can be found on our Schoolyard Wildlife Habitat page

Happy Habitats,
Kerry Wixted

Photo of cedar waxwing bird with berry

Native Animal: Cedar Waxwing

Often heard and not seen, the lovely Cedar Waxwing can be found year-round throughout Maryland. Cedar Waxwings sport a pale brown, crested head with a sleek black mask that runs from their bill and around their eyes. Learn about the waxwing.

Photo by Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren
CC by 2.0

Photo of inkberry

Native Plant Profile: Inkberry

Inkberry (Ilex glabra) is one of our native, compact shrubs in the holly family (Aquifoliaceae) that keeps its leaves year-round. It is a relatively slow-growing species that reaches heights of 5-8 feet tall. It sometimes will form clumps with numerous sprouts, making it a great plant to use as a low hedge or border. Read more about inkberry.

Photo by Philip Bouchard CC by NC ND 2.0

Image of breeding bird atlas logo of two birds on Maryland state map

Calling Maryland Bird Enthusiasts!

With changes in habitat and climate over the years, it is crucial to know what species are still utilizing Maryland to breed. One important population survey method is a breeding bird atlas which covers a large geographic area. By tracking bird populations, distributions and the timing of their breeding, researchers can understand how an ecosystem’s health is changing. The Maryland–District of Columbia Breeding Bird Atlas project and will run through 2024, and you can join the effort

Give wildlife a hand this winter with these habitat projects!

Photo of robin eating holly berry

Winter Greens for Wildlife

Woody plants are essential for wildlife. In the winter, evergreen plants can provide much-needed shelter and food for local animals. Consider adding one or more of these native plants to your backyard landscape to provide for local wildlife..

Photo by Stan Lupo CC by NC ND 2.0

Photo of screech owl in birdhouse

Eastern Screech-owl Boxes

Did you know? The smallest resident owl in Maryland is the Eastern Screech-owl, which is often under 10 inches in length. Eastern Screech-owls are formidable hunters and are adapted to survive in both suburban and rural areas where the owls quietly pick off rodents and other small mammals with ease. Unlike larger owls, Eastern Screech-owls will readily take to nesting in boxes if the conditions are right. Learn more.

Photo by Roy Niswanger CC by NC 2.0

Wild Acres is a voluntary program that encourages residents to create backyard wildlife habitat.
For more winter tips and tricks, check out the HabiChat archives.

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