Las Vegas Sun

October 18, 2019

Currently: 76° — Complete forecast

It’s easy to attract birds to your backyard habitat

Continuing with last week's theme of establishing a backyard habitat:

Many birds indigenous to Southern Nevada are relatively easy to attract. The verdin, a gray bird with a yellow head and throat, can be found in catclaw, desert willow or mesquite in desert washes. But you might have luck attracting verdins to your habitat, as there's a verdin nest at the Desert Demonstration Garden on Alta Drive.

Common birds are house sparrows and finches, doves, mockingbirds, the omnipresent pigeon and ravens. If you look closely, you might find other kinds of sparrows with the house sparrows, and Inca or white-winged doves alongside the mourning doves.

Less common birds around town are Gambel's quail, gnatcatchers, warblers, thrashers, house wrens or rock wrens. If you live on the outskirts of town, you might find migrating mountain or western bluebirds traveling through your yard. It's not likely that they'll nest, though.

You'll also find displaced burrowing owls on the outskirts of town near developing areas.

Seed producing and insect attracting plants are important to attracting birds. Again, good native species are catclaw, desert hackberry, brittlebush and four-wing saltbush. Birds prefer poppies, globe mallow, evening primrose, wild buckwheats and sunflowers.

If you'd like black-chinned or Costas hummingbirds in your yard, plant flowers, trees and shrubs with pink or red tubular flowers. Some of these are trumpet honeysuckle, trumpet creepers, scarlet penstemons, scarlet paintbrush, scarlet salvia, bee balm, fire pinks and scarlet petunias.

Desert willows, wolf berry, ocotillo, desert honeysuckle, fairy duster, agave and aloe are good drought-tolerant species for attracting hummingbirds.

A simple hummingbird feeder also will attract birds. To make your own solution, boil four parts water to one part sugar. Never use honey -- it can cause a fatal fungal disease in hummingbirds.

It also is possible to attract toads to your yard if you live in a part of town where they roam (such as the Ann Road area for red- spotted toads) or have extensive lawn areas that provide cool, moist respites in the summer (for woodhouse toads). Access to non-cholorinated water also is a big plus for attracting amphibians.

Some parts of town also feature good populations of reptiles, and adding their favorite habitat to your habitat may help lure them.

The desert spiny lizard (called the blue belly of Southern Nevada) is fairly common. Western fence lizards and geckos are found in certain parts of town.

The non-native Mediterranean gecko can be found in trailer parks where snowbirds have brought them in. In Boulder City, near the River Mountains, chuckwallas and gila monsters have been spotted.

To provide reptile habitat, use deep piles of rocks with nooks and crannies for hiding places. Cinder block walls with gaps are good habitat. It helps to have good cover nearby, like ivy or trees. A thick ground cover also is appropriate, like rosemary that is common in southern Nevada gardens.

Make sure to keep a good, clean source of water for the wildlife you hope to attract. And try to keep cats at bay -- they are the single most factor limiting a backyard habitat's success.

PAULA DEL GIUDICE has been an outdoors freelance writer, author and photographer for 13 years. Her column appears Wednesdays.