Backyard Feast

Bird on a garden chair

Is your charming backyard a wildlife buffet?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Now that you’ve built your dream outdoor living space, could it be inviting foraging animals? Did that “wascally wabbit” raid your garden for tasty carrots?

Enter Christopher Hansen and colleagues from the University of Montana. The team investigated whether wildlife use our backyard features for food and shelter. They spied on bird feeders, water fountains, compost piles, and gardens in North Carolina. Over several months, motion-sensor cameras took pictures of every furry visitor.

What did they observe? Party city! Commonly seen critters included raccoons, opossums, and rabbits. Almost seventy-percent of yard features were used for food or shelter. But the star attraction? A treasure trove of seeds – bird feeders! Gray squirrels love stopping by for a quick snack.

It appears that local critters are making the most of our neighborhood potlucks!

As to why your finicky cat Fluffy turns up her nose at anything but the fanciest cat food? More research is needed.

Hansen, C.P., Parsons, A.W., Kays, R., et al. Does use of backyard resources explain the abundance of urban wildlife? Front Ecol Evol 8, 570771 (2020).