While native wildlife use all parts of Naples Zoo as a haven, the Zoo also set aside a portion of the grounds to create a Backyard Wildlife Habitat™ and had it certified by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). The site has all four elements required by certified sites including food, water, cover, and places to raise young. Key plants in this area include species that provide food and resources for birds and butterflies. For example, the fruit of the wild lime provides food for birds and small animals, while the plant itself is the larval host for butterflies like the Giant swallowtail and Schaus' swallowtail. The milkweed and firebush is a nectar source for hummingbirds while wild coffee is a nectar source for numerous butterflies and pollinators. Because of this, commonly seen butterflies include cloudless sulphers, white peacocks, zebra longwings, monarchs, Gulf frittilaries, orange barred sulphers, Atalas, and queens. Naples Zoo is also a member of the North American Songbird SAFE (Saving Animals from Extinction) program coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Migratory Birds Nesting Nearby the Habitat
And by having their favorite food plants, the habitat is a popular spot to find wild butterflies flitting between flowers. The Zoo is also home to nesting boxes placed by the Bluebird Rescue Team Project. Beyond helping wildlife here, Naples Zoo provides this resource of inspiring ideas for you to create your own certified habitat. The program has tens of thousands of certified sites all over America. Click here to learn more.
Each year a variety of migratory birds nest in the trees above Alligator Bay adjacent to this area. The birds enjoy raising their chicks with the natural protection from nest raiders who stay away because of the giant reptiles. Nesting species include little blue herons, tricolored herons, snowy egrets, great egrets, anhingas, white ibis, common moorhens, and more. Many other species have been seen in the area but nests have not yet been confirmed. Stop by and see who's making their home here!
Making your South florida home welcome to birds
Florida is an important stop for migrating birds on the Atlantic Flyway before or after they cross the sea. Whether you have a balcony railing or a ranch, you can offer plants that provide much needed resources for these traveling birds. A wonderful introduction to gardening for birds is Attracting Birds to South Florida Gardens. The text explains how each plant can attract specific bird species. They also explain what plants work well together, offer advice on simplifying garden maintenance, and provide tips on how other elements can make an area avian-friendly. (You can receive a signed copy by ordering direct.) And where possible in our botanical garden, we leave standing dead trees (also called snags) as nesting spots for birds that nest in these cavities.
Save songbirds with every sip
You can also help migrating songbirds every morning just by choosing certified Bird Friendly coffee. See the coffee connection and start saving songbirds!
Backyard Bugs and Weeds
There are many natural ways to control pests and unwanted plants in your yard. Here in the gardens, we use a variety of natural methods including plucking bugs by hand, washing plants down with a hose, pruning infested or diseased limbs, and using a soap solution. We rarely need to use pesticides – it's only if a pest population reaches uncontrolled numbers. Our horticulture team doesn't use any sprays, but uses a soil drench to avoid chemical drift and also avoid doing even this when the plant is in bloom to protect pollinators. For unwanted plants, we will also pull weeds by hand (ideally before they set seed) and use landscape paper or mulch to stop weeds from returning in cleared areas. Get more tips from Audubon.
Exotics: The Good and the Bad
While we enjoy the ability to grow many tropical and subtropical plants in Southwest Florida, not all exotics are good. Without the natural controls from the places they're native to, some can grow so well they out compete native plants that local species depend on to survive. Even within our site, most of the plants at the Glass Animal Hospital and our behind-the-scenes offices are Florida natives – as are many of the species throughout the gardens. Learn more about which plants are good and which ones are not at the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council.
Our Bigger Backyard: Local Waters
Locally, part of our backyard includes our beaches and waterways. Click here how to be a good neighbor to endangered sea turtles! And to be a good neighbor by supporting fishermen and healthy fisheries, check the Seafood Watch site to help you choose the best fish for your health and your coastal community.
Help Birds (and Your cat), too
As most cat owners will attest, even well-fed cats allowed outside will bring home kills. And that adds up. According to research published in Nature, owned cats that are allowed outdoors kill an estimated 744,000 birds a year. The American Veterinary Medical Association states that "responsible care of privately owned cats is an effective preventative" and they "encourage owners to keep owned cats indoors, in an outdoor enclosure, or on an attended leash.' But it's not just good for native wildlife. According to the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, "Statistics show that indoor cats lead longer, healthier lives than outdoor cats. Indoor cats live on average 10-15 years, while outdoor cats live on average 2-5 years." And if you live in this area, Collier County laws state that all "pets must be confined to the owner’s property or walked on a leash." So if you own a cat, you can give your feline friend a better life and create a safer environment for the birds you're attracting to your yard!