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HABITAT - the arrangement of food, water, cover, and space - IS THE KEY.

Author’s Note

Happy holidays HabiChat fans!

While I am not a big fan of wintertime, I am excited to see new visitors to my backyard.

Since winter is a great time for bird watching, much of this HabiChat is dedicated to projects and plants that will help local bird species. Learn about local research on native plants and how they help native birds, read up on evening grosbeaks and why their return to Maryland is special, learn about our native silky dogwood, and finally, keep an eye out for finch eye disease.

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. Remember, 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, try a winter safari or making seed wreaths.

In addition, the University of Maryland Extension’s Woodland Stewardship Education has several upcoming events that may be of interest to backyard enthusiasts. Registration for the spring session of The Woods in Your Backyard online course will be open soon. This self-paced, non-credit course runs 10 weeks from March 5-May 21, 2019, helping landowners convert lawn to natural areas and to enhance stewardship of existing natural areas.

As a final note, the Maryland Amphibian and Reptile Atlas is now available, containing information on more than 80 reptile and amphibian species. Data was collected by local biologists and nearly 1,000 community scientists. Each species is given a detailed account of identification characters, life history information, and where it was found across the state.

Happy Habitats!,
Kerry Wixted

Two birds sittng on a blue birddhouse in winter.

Evening grosbeak and common redpoll at a feeder by Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren, Flickr CC by 2.0


In This Issue:

Habitat Tips: Native Birds Need Native Plants

Here at Wild Acres, we like to promote using native plants in backyards to attract local wildlife species.

Over the years, Doug Tallamy’s research has shown a clear relationship between native plants and birds, linking the importance of native plants for supporting insects like caterpillars. Tallamy’s research has revealed that native oaks can support more than 530 species of butterfly and moth caterpillars while an invasive butterfly bush supports only one species. Read more.

Loving Birds to Death & the Importance of Cleaning Feeders

In 1994, a group of Project FeederWatchers in Washington, D.C. noticed house finches showing up to their feeders with red, swollen, crusty eyes. The ailments were soon found to be linked to house finch eye disease, or mycoplasmal conjunctivitis.

Conjunctivitis is caused by a bacteria, and different species of bacteria affect different organisms. The bacterium known to infect local house finches has also been documented impacting species such as American goldfinches, evening grosbeaks and purple finches. Read more.

Native Animal Profile: Evening Grosbeak

Multiple species of finches make their home in Maryland. Some are year-round residents while others, like the evening grosbeak, are part-time visitors. Evening grosbeaks are chunky finches. Males have striking yellow and black plumage with prominent white and black wings. Females are mostly gray and also possess white and black wings. Both sexes have thick, conical shaped bills with adult males having ivory colored bills and females and immature birds having greenish-tinged bills. Read more.

Native Plant Profile: Silky Dogwood

Silky dogwood (Cornus amomum) is a medium-sized, native in the dogwood family (Cornaceae), and its blue berries are savored by many songbirds. More than 45 types of songbirds and game birds have been documented consuming the fatty berries in the fall. Read more.


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We want to hear from you!

Letters, e-mail, photos, drawings. Let us know how successful you are as you create wildlife habitat on your property.

Write to Me!

Kerry Wixted
Natural Resources Biologist II
Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service
MD Dept of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Ave., E-1
Annapolis MD 21401

phone: 410-260-8566
fax: 410-260-8596
e-mail: kerry.wixted@maryland.gov

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Habichat, the newsletter for Maryland's Stewards of Backyard Wildlife, is published by the Wildlife and Heritage Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The facilities and services of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources are available to all without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, national origin, physical or mental disability. This document is available in alternative format upon request from a qualified individual with a disability.​