Backyard Habitat for Wildlife
The Backyard Habitat for Wildlife program offers urban landholders a great opportunity to conserve our unique environment in their own backyards!
The Backyard Habitat for Wildlife program supports suburban landholders who love native animals and who have areas of native habitat in their backyards.
Want to get involved?
To join, simply log on to Backyard Habitat for Wildlife
and click on the registration form icon. A range of useful information is available on the site to help you maintain and improve your backyard wildlife habitat.
What will I receive?
Joining the program is free and there are no meetings. When you join you receive:
- sheets and other information
- A great sign for your letterbox or gate
- Opportunities to network with other people who love native animals
- nvitations to free workshops
- The opportunity to share pictures of your favourite wildlife with other members
To minimise unnecessary use of resources, the Backyard Habitat for Wildlife program will be largely paper-free. The program website will be used to facilitate forums and share wildlife pictures and other information with members. For those without internet access, hard copy registration forms will be available at the Murwillumbah and Tweed Heads Civic Centres. or further program information contact Council’s Project Officer – Biodiversity, Michael Corke, on (02) 6670 2592 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Land for Wildlife
First established in Victoria in 1981 and now delivered in most states and territories, Land for Wildlife is a voluntary property registration scheme that helps private landholders manage wildlife habitat on their property. The scheme encourages and assists nature conservation on private land, irrespective of other land uses.
Under the scheme, thousands of landholders help conserve tens of thousands of hectares of wildlife habitat nationwide. Tweed Shire Council launched its Land for Wildlife Scheme on World Environment Day 2013. It is free to join, is not legally binding and does not alter a property’s legal status.
Why is Land for Wildlife important?
Tweed Shire is recognised as a biodiversity hotspot. It contains a great variety of plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else. Private land accounts for 86 per cent of the Shire and harbours significant biodiversity, including many rare and threatened species. Therefore, private landholders play a key role in nature conservation. The Land for Wildlife Scheme supports this role.
Want to be a Land for Wildlifer?
For further information and to register see the Land for Wildlife Brochure (957kB PDF)
Birds of the Tweed Valley
Birdlife Northern Rivers and Tweed Shire Council have prepared a Guide to Bird Walks in the Tweed Valley
. The Tweed Caldera has an exceptionally high biodiversity, supporting a huge number of plant and animal species. Fertile soils, the climate and latitude all contribute to this biodiversity, with the area able to support temperate and sub-tropical species. Many bird species found in the Tweed Caldera are at the northern or southern extents of their range.
Living with Wildlife
To learn more about living with wildlife see Tweed Valley Wildlife Carers Inc. www.tvwc.org.au/wildlife-friendly.php
All native animals are protecteed under the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act - www.environment.nsw.gov.au/animals/ProtectedSpecies.htm
Brush turkeys are part of Australia's natural heritage, and many householders now accept these birds as a fascinating part of their backyard environment. They are generally shy birds and wary of humans. However, they can become very tame in suburban areas, particularly if they are fed.
Despite some evidence of increasing spread within the suburbs, the long-term survival of the species is seriously threatened by hatchling predation and continued loss of habitat. As such, it is illegal to trap them, which would be the only way to re-locate them. In any case, re-location does not provide a solution. When you remove turkeys, others will continue to move in to the area to take their place.
To adjust to living with brush turkeys, it is important to understand their preferences. The brush turkey favours moist gardens with a combination of intermittent shade, vegetative mulch and available food resources, which facilitates both foraging and nesting behaviour. Keeping this in mind will help you to determine methods of deterrence.
What you can do if a Brush turkey builds an unwanted mound in your garden
No single method will be effective in all situations, but the following will minimise any destruction they may cause to your garden.
- Do not feed brush turkeys.
- Ensure no scraps of food or rubbish are left lying around.
- Do not leave domestic pet food outside.
- Turkey-proof your garden by:
- using heavy coverings such as river rocks, coarse gravel and logs instead of, or over, vegetative mulch;
- Surrounding areas of your garden you want protected with plants such as Lomandra and low growing Grevillea varieties and/or plants with prickles that can be planted en-masse and provide thick ground cover,
- Diverting the turkey's attention away from your garden by building a household compost mound or using their favourite scratching material, hay or cane mulch. This should be placed in the shade and be kept moist.
- Using tree guards or fencing to protect young plants.
- If a male chooses to build a mound in your yard, he will persist even if you disturb it every day. Mound-building activity will persist during the breeding season, and decrease once the chicks have left the nest. If you do not want a nest in your garden try covering the mound with wire or a tarpaulin with heavy weights, but this must be done before any eggs are laid.
For further information click here
Council does not destroy or relocate flying foxes. All native animals are protected and the grey-headed flying foxes are listed as a threatened species under the NSW Threatened species Act
and as a vulnerable species under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act
. The following descriptions and suggestions should help you understand flying foxes and living with them as neighbours. For more information see Department of Environment and Heritage
or Flying Foxes
The name flying fox refers to a number of bat species within the group known as the megabats. There are three species found in northern NSW; grey-headed, black and little red flying-foxes. Flying foxes are often referred to as the ‘forest-makers’ because the survival of many native tree species relies on them for pollination and seed dispersal. As the landscape becomes more fragmented due to housing development and agriculture, this ‘ecosystem service’ that the flying foxes provide has become vital.
Because flying foxes roost in colonies, which they leave to forage for food and return together, there appears to be plenty of them and, when you live near a colony, it can be hard to believe that they could be threatened with extinction. However, the grey-headed flying fox once had a population of many millions, but now numbers less than 300,000 nationally and continues to decline.
Tips for living near flying foxes
The survival of flying foxes depends on our ability to live with them. From a public health perspective there is no reason to be alarmed if a colony moves in nearby. Here are some tips to help the community coexist with flying foxes:Don't leave washing out at night
Flying-foxes are active at night. If you take your washing inside at night, you won’t have to worry about droppings on your clothes when flying-foxes fly over. If washing is left out overnight, think about putting up old sheets or a shower curtain on the outside lines of your clothes hoist to protect it.
If washing is stained, soaking the item as soon as possible (preferably while the stain is still wet) in a good stain remover. Use bleach for white items.Park your car under shelter
Claims that flying fox droppings strip paint from cars and houses are part of the mythology surrounding these animals. If there is any truth to this it may be due to the droppings drying and peeling off a surface and, if the underlying paint is old, lifting off a patch of the surface paint with it.Avoid disturbing roosts
When flying foxes are stressed or frightened, they make a lot more noise. Unfortunately, little can be done about the smell of a roost. The smell is not dirtiness but a way that flying foxes communicate with each another.Plant roost trees away from houses
To make roost trees on private land near housing less attractive to flying-foxes, clear the understorey and remove some of the branches of the trees. Low, dense trees and shrubs planted around fence lines also form a barrier that flying foxes are unlikely to roost in.
Over time, a roost may be encouraged to move by planting roost trees further away from houses. Surveys of flying fox roosts in New South Wales have shown that a distance of as little as 100 metres from neighbouring houses can be enough to reduce the noise level of a flying fox roost to an acceptable level.Net fruit trees
Damage to local fruit trees in backyards or orchards can be a problem. The best solution is to cover the trees in netting. This also protects the trees from bird, possum and rat attack, as well as wind and hail. Netting can even create a microclimate that may improve yield.
Using the right type of netting will protect fruit. Using the wrong type of netting, or badly erecting it, may also injure or kill native birds, flying-foxes and possums if they become entangled. Find out more about netting backyard trees here
Viruses hosted by flying foxes
There is no evidence that people living close to flying fox roost sites suffer higher levels of disease than the rest of the population or any evidence that suggests flying foxes pose health risks to humans through contamination of roof-collected drinking water. Catching diseases directly from flying foxes is extremely unlikely. However they are known as hosts to two life-threatening viruses, Hendra virus and Australian Bat Lyssavirus.Hendra virus
Flying-foxes are hosts for Hendra virus, which occasionally spills over from the flying fox population into horses. The infection can result in the death of the horse. The infections are rare, which indicates that transmissions may only occur under very specific and extreme conditions.
As a precautionary measure, horse owners should not feed or water horses beneath trees where flying foxes roost or visit regularly. If horse owners know there are bats in the area, they should contact their veterinarian immediately if any of their horses become ill with fever, respiratory problems, colic or neurological signs (like loss of vision, loss of balance). Until the horse is examined and cleared by a veterinarian, horse owners should limit contact with sick horses and avoid contact with any body fluid, including nasal discharge. If horse owners are concerned about their own health, they should contact their doctor or their local public health unit immediately.
There is no evidence of human-to-human transmission of Hendra virus or that the virus can be passed directly from flying-foxes to humans, from the environment to humans, from humans to horses, or that it is airborne.Australian Bat Lyssavirus
Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABL) can only be caught from untreated bites or scratches from infected bats.If bitten or scratched by a bat, prompt treatment is vital.
Do not scrub the wound.
Wash the wound gently but thoroughly with soap and water for at least five minutes. Apply an antiseptic (e.g. povidone, iodine or another iodine preparation or ethanol alcohol) and cover the wound.
Contact your doctor or hospital immediately - they will arrange for the vaccinations that are necessary to protect you against ABL. These vaccinations should start as soon as possible after being bitten or scratched.
If bat saliva gets into your eyes, nose or mouth, or into an open wound, flush thoroughly with water and seek medical advice immediately.
Members of the public should not handle bats.
If you find a sick, injured or orphaned flying fox, do not touch it. Contact Tweed Valley Wildlife Carers on 02 6672 4789. They will put you in contact with a licensed and fully-vaccinated wildlife rescuer who is trained to handle and care for wildlife.
Nest boxes in backyards are a great way to encourage birds to your garden or to provide possums with an alternative home to your roof. Nest boxes can provide important habitat for a range of species including birds, arboreal (tree-dwelling) mammals and micro bats. Artificial tree hollows, or ‘nest boxes’ can be used as a replacement for natural hollows. Identify what hollow-using fauna occur in your area and use this to guide what type of box is appropriate as different species require different sized openings and ‘hollow’ sizes. There are several nest box manufacturers in Australia and publications that outline design and construction are available on the internet. The ‘Nest Box Manual’ in the available downloads section above provides information about site selection, installation, maintenance and monitoring.
Living with your local possums
Council does not relocate possums. Nor do Tweed Valley Wildlife Carers, unless they are sick or injured, in which case call their 24 hour hotline on (02) 6672 4789.
Possums, like all other native animals, are protected in NSW. This means it is illegal to harm them in any way, which includes trapping and relocating them in another area.
Research has shown that nearly 100% of relocated possums die within days of their release and sometimes cause death of other possums. They will fight for their territory often resulting in injuries followed by a slow and painful death. If they do find a new hollow to live in, re-located possums may also displace other wildlife, such as parrots, owls or gliders.
What you can do if a possum is living in your roof
The combination of light, smells and an alternative home should encourage the possum to leave your roof.
- Check your roof to make sure it is, in fact, a possum that is living there and not rats. If you hear movement during the day, it is more than likely rats. If you are not sure, you could set a non-lethal trap to check what animals are disturbing you.
- Locate the access points into the roof and identify trees or structures possibly being used to climb up to the roof.
- Place collars made from aluminum or sheet iron around the trunks of trees being used to access the roof and lop any overhanging branches.
- Make or buy a nest box, and install it in your garden as an alternative den site for the possum.
- Spread mothballs in the roof to repel the possum. DO NOT USE RAT BAIT, as this will cause an extremely painful and cruel death for possums and possibly other wildlife.
- Place a light in the roof and leave it on for three days and nights.
- Once you are sure the possum has left your roof, block off the known entrance points. If you do not do this your efforts will be wasted, as another animal is sure to make its home in your roof.
If a snake enters your yard, leave it alone and generally it will move on. The general rule of thumb is to be aware when it is snake season and to take the necessary precautions associated with the season. It's good for all of us to be 'snake wise' and remember these safeguards:
- Snake types are easily confused, so all snakes should be treated as if they are venomous.
- Snakes will usually only attack if they feel threatened, so give them plenty of space to make their escape.
- Around houses, people should clean up aviaries, dog kennels and poultry pens where food attracts mice.
- Remove debris and clutter from yards, keep lawns mowed and slash tall grass along fences.
- Ensure gaps under doorways and any holes or gaps in walls are sealed.
- Don’t try to catch or kill a snake – that is when 90% of snake bites happen.
Relocaton of snakes is not recommended unless they are really a threat to your safety. In an event where a snake is a threat, to have it safely removed from a property, call for a trained volunteer from:
Tweed Valley Wildlife Carers - 24 hour phone - (02) 6672 4789 (Tweed Valley Wildlife Carers ask for a donation for snake relocations) or check the Yellow Pages for professional snake relocators.
Magpies are one of Australia's favourite birds. They are common across most of Australia and are a familiar sight in the Tweed. Magpies thrive in suburban areas because parks, playing fields, backyards and schoolyards often provide ideal environments for foraging and breeding.
Like humans, magpies protect their young. During the breeding season, typically July to November, magpies may swoop other birds, animals and humans as a warning to intruders that the nest, eggs and juvenile birds will be defended. Swooping behaviour typically lasts for around six weeks.
Swooping birds can be a frightening experience, but understanding why some birds behave this way helps us share our rural and urban environments with them.
Being aware of swooping areas enables us to take extra precautions while they protect their nests and young, such as avoiding their territory. However, don't be concerned simply because there are magpies present.
Download the Fact sheet Living with magpies (577kB PDF) to learn more about the native Australian magpie and tips to minimise the risk of being swooped during nesting season.
If you consider a magpie to be a serious menace and swooping occurs on bushland or private property, you may report the incident to National Parks and Wildlife Service on (02) 6670 8600. If swooping occurs on Council-managed land such as a park or road reserve, contact Council’s Operations Coordinator, Parks on (02) 6670 2400.
Masked lapwings (Plovers)
The masked lapwing, also commonly known simply as “plover” is a medium-sized conspicuous bird with loud, penetrating calls. It is a bold bird that swoops at intruders in defence of their eggs or young. Some pairs defend large mobile territories around chicks rather than the nest. Such attacks will usually cease after the eggs hatch and chicks are mobile. Most swooping behaviour is to threaten or bluff to warn off intruders. Contact is rarely made.
10 tips to protect yourself from swooping birds
Minimise the risk of being swooped, by following these 10 tips:
- Know your local swooping hotspots. Keep informed about parks, schoolyards and bike trails in your local area by reading your local newspapers.
- Avoid the area. The best way to protect yourself from a swooping bird, is to avoid venturing into their territory
- Move quickly. If you must pass through the area – move quickly – do not run.
- Cover your head. Wear a hat or carry an umbrella above your head. Cyclists should wear a helmet, dismount and walk through the area.
- Eyes at the back of your head. Birds may be less likely to swoop if they think you are watching them. Draw a pair of ‘eyes’ and attach to the back of hats and helmets.
- Do not harass wildlife. Don’t interfere with or throw stones at birds. This gives them added reason to see humans as a threat and may increase swooping behaviour.
- Do not destroy nests. This may prompt birds to rebuild their nests, prolonging the swooping behaviour.
- Don’t feed swooping birds.
- Travel in a group. If possible, try to travel in a group in areas where there are swooping birds.
- Notify others. Put up warning signs for others who may not be aware that there are swooping birds in the area, or ask your council to do so.
Please remember that it is against the law to harm native wildlife. If you need more information about swooping birds in your area, please contact National Parks and Wildlife on (02) 6670 8600.