People live in buildings, and wildlife lives in “nature” – right? Well, not quite. For as long as we have built structures for our protection and shelter, wildlife has taken advantage of these buildings for the very same reasons.
From the diverse range of birds and mammals which have colonised abandoned ruins in remote rural landscapes, to wildlife which has moved into suburban and urban areas to live alongside us and even share our homes, buildings have become an integral component of the Irish landscape for biodiversity.
A new video highlights the importance of the built environment for wildlife and celebrates the species which have adapted to live alongside us and share our homes, and the measures that we can take to ensure we make space for nature.
The video produced by BirdWatch Ireland and Crow Crag productions in partnership with Laois, Clare and Tipperary County Councils, supported by the Local Biodiversity Action Fund, can be viewed below.
Certain species are expected residents within our buildings, and for some the association with buildings is apparent even from their names, such as the ‘House Martin’ which builds its mud nest in the apex of the roof of occupied houses, and the ‘Barn Swallow’ which travels from Africa to nest in farmyards throughout the country.
The vision of a Barn Owl floating silently from a ruined castle at dusk may seem familiar, but less expected occupants may be a pair of Kestrels nesting in a flower box outside a busy kitchen window, or a female Pine Marten raising her kits in the roof space of an occupied dwelling. Of course, much of the wildlife which use buildings go unnoticed, such as bats roosting in the attic of a house in which the inhabitants beneath remain blissfully unaware of their presence. Given the importance of buildings for wildlife, changes to the built environment can affect wildlife associated with it.
Wildlife in buildings can often be harmed during works due to a lack of awareness of their presence or indeed knowledge of how plan renovations and works in order to avoid disturbance, which is usually always possible. The loss of old stone structures due to demolition, dilapidation or renovation is linked to declines in species such as Barn Owl and Swift, which are dependent on these structures. Modern buildings do not provide the same opportunities for wildlife. However, there is a lot that we can do to improve modern buildings for wildlife to ensure that we continue to make space for nature.
John Lusby, BirdWatch Ireland, commented, ‘We wanted to celebrate the importance of buildings for wildlife and to create a better link between our built heritage and our natural heritage – as the two are intertwined. The diversity of species which use buildings, and the ways in which they have adapted to use the built environment, is truly astonishing. As the built environment is constantly changing, we need to make sure that we avoid disturbance to sensitive species and also to continue to provide space for wildlife in buildings, which has benefits for wildlife as well as ourselves. We hope that this feature increases awareness and appreciation of the importance of the built environment for wildlife and provides the necessary information to help conserve some of our most vulnerable and iconic wildlife which are dependent on buildings for their survival’.
Roisin O’Grady, Heritage Officer with Tipperary County Council said ‘We share the world with nature and it can be closer to us than we think. Tipperary County Council is delighted to support this film highlighting the importance of our built environment, heritage or otherwise in providing shelter for such a variety of species, some of which are our most vulnerable. Given the high levels of habitat loss we have experienced over the last number of years it is more important than ever to be aware of how species have adapted to our built environment and how we can support this ‘co-habitation’ and equally important in newer development how we ‘make space’ for nature’.
Congella McGuire, Heritage Officer with Clare County Council commented ‘The Local Authority Heritage Officer Network is delighted to be associated with this Wildlife in Buildings video and the guidance booklet ‘Wildlife in Buildings: linking our built and natural heritage’ both of which were produced with the support of the Local Authorities and National Biodiversity Action Plan Fund’.
Catherine Casey Heritage Officer with Laois County Council said “linking our built and natural heritage is central to our message as heritage officers and we were delighted as a network to work with BirdWatch Ireland on this wonderful film and companion booklet, which celebrates the natural heritage of our birds, bats and others and looks at how we can manage our built heritage with wildlife in mind”.
The companion booklet ‘Wildlife in Buildings: linking our built and natural heritage’ was produced by BirdWatch Ireland, Kerry County Council and Donegal County Council, with funding from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage through the National Biodiversity Action Plan Fund.
Download for free below or contact Laois Heritage Office for a free copy.
The Wildlife in Buildings Film was produced by BirdWatch Ireland and Crow Crag, in partnership with Clare, Laois and Tipperary County Councils, with funding from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage through the Local Biodiversity Action Plan Fund.