Bring wonder to your backyard – certify it as wildlife habitat

By Janet Carroll | Jul 27, 2011


Photo courtesy of Janet Carroll

Douglas tree squirrels are just one of many critters that visit Janet Carroll’s backyard in Mukilteo, which is a certified wildlife habitat.

Since my last column in The Beacon, 27 more homes have been certified as wildlife habitat in Mukilteo. We now have 110 homes certified with only 40 more to go before Mukilteo becomes a National Wildlife Federation Community Wildlife Habitat.

Also, five schools have been certified and our target for schools is now met.

It is so much fun to watch backyard wildlife, that those of you who do not have wildlife in your yard are missing out.  

This spring was hard on animals, I would think.  Birds, at least, seemed to be nesting late.  However, now is the time when my feeders empty quickly and suet is gone in a day.  

I have new little Douglas tree squirrels that line up to get into their caged sunflower seed feeders.  They are fun to watch as they try to figure out how to get into the feeder often trying to bite their way through the wire.  

One little guy had a problem getting up my deck walls and became trapped.  In my effort to help, I scared the squirrel nearly to death, and he ran up the side of the house and hopefully jumped into a tree.

I had my first starling come to the suet.  Only one, but I was afraid it would bring its friends. It is not my wish to feed starlings, as they are not native and take hole nesting habitat from our native birds.  

All the woodpeckers that are around have come into the suet with their young.  I have flickers, downy and hairy woodpeckers and pileated woodpeckers – all nest around here somewhere.  

Joining in at the suet to feed their food-begging young are the black-capped and chestnut backed chickadees, nuthatches and crows.  

The crows I would characterize as insatiable.  Despite beaks filled to overflowing with suet, they keep trying to pick up more.  Then they take the mouthful over to the birdbath to wash it off and half of it ends up in the water.  

Then there are the band-tailed pigeons.  Every day they descend on the feeders until they have eaten all the seeds, then they come back later to see if there is anything more.  About 16 pigeons hang out in my trees.

One of my favorite visitors is the black-headed grosbeak.  I usually have two pairs coming to the feeder, and they are not particularly fond of one another.  They are so beautiful.  

This year, I was surprised and delighted to have a male western tanager spend a short time at my feeder.  Its first visit it flew into the maple tree right by my window, but I could not quite tell what it was because it was tucked away in the leaves.  

But then it flew into my feeder and I let out a cheer. The tanager with its red head, black wings and bright yellow body is stunning.  The tanager is new to my list of feeder birds.

I have been “scooped” at my feeder by a friend who has had evening grosbeaks and red crossbills in addition to her long list of other feeder visiting birds.  She diligently records her bird visitors and reports her findings to Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology as a citizen scientist.

I hope those of you with certified backyards enjoy the animals as much as I do, and those of you whose yards aren’t yet certified, help us out by sending in the certification form. You can get that form from our web site at Just sign up online from a link at our website or contact me by email at

Once you are certified, you will get a year’s membership to National Wildlife Federation and a subscription to their informative magazine, a backyard wildlife sign from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and a newsletter from the Woodland Park Zoo.  And a big thanks from the Mukilteo Wildlife Habitat Team.

Janet Carroll is a member of the Mukilteo Wildlife Habitat Project, which has a goal of certifying Mukilteo as a community wildlife habitat.  Help Mukilteo get community certification by certifying your own yard.  For more information on the project, go to

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