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Microhabitats

Microhabitats are the smaller regions within a biome with local variations in weather that result in different types and amounts of food. These variations can be on a very small scale; for example, even a backyard birdfeeder creates a small habitat island for birds, squirrels, rats, grain moths, and marauding raccoons, as well as for the hawks and owls that prey on them.

Microhabitats support any animal whose needs are met by the climate, food supply and available shelter for rearing young. Many species may live together in one area as long as they do not compete directly for the same food. For instance, three varieties of warbler are able to live off of the same spruce trees without competing, since their feeding areas do not overlap. One species is specialized to feed only in the highest branches, one in the middle of the tree, and one forages mostly on the bottom.

The same spruce may also be home to myriad insect species that feed on its bark, sap, wood, and each other. Various birds and rodents forage off the tree’s insect life and its seeds. The microhabitat also includes the creatures of the forest floor beneath the spruces: the microscopic bacteria and fungi, the insects that eat them, the rodents and snakes that consume the insects, the salamanders and newts in moist earth under rocks, and the birds and small mammals that prey on them. Viewed from this perspective, a small stand of trees becomes a teeming world of its own.

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