Spring Newsletter: Attracting Birds in the garden
Since we have been locked down recently and last year a common comment is the bird life seems to be more active. It may be because there is less background noise or the birds feel freer to move about.
A lot of my clients ask how can I attract more birds in their garden.
Having just walked down my path, there are some birds that I would prefer weren’t in my garden. They are the ones that spread mulch and soil all over the path in their search for food. They are usually English imports such as blackbirds and thrushes. It is their nature to do this as they are foragers, pecking and scratching for food like worms. It is hard to change old habits! The best thing you can do about this is to get a dense cover of plants, and if needed cover your vegetables with netting.
The other more desirable type of feathered friend are our native birds, such as the tui, wood pigeon or bellbird. Bellbirds and tuis feed on nectar, fruit and insects high up the tree. They both have beautiful sounds, although it can be hard to distinguish the two, especially as the tui is a mimicker. They are known as honey feeders, as they can insert their toothbrush like tongue into flowers to get the nectar. They also help to spread the pollen from one tree to another, which in turn helps these plants to seed.
Another native bird which is very important to the spread of our native plants is the wood pigeon or kereru. You know when this large bird is around as its wings make a racket as they go pass. They can eat the large seeds of plants like karaka, taraire, tawa and miro. These are then expelled in their faeces, which means they spread to other places. If the kereru goes, so do these plants eventually.
Kaka are more frequent now -these noisy birds can strip bark off large trees, as has happened in the Wellington Botanic Garden.
I have noticed that the number of tui, kaka and wood pigeon have increased locally over the years. This is no doubt due to the help from the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary ( Zealandia). If you haven’t already been, you should check this predator-free facility out, as it a number of other native birds such as takahe.
What can you do to attract our native birds?
One thing is keep predators at bay. Opossums, stoats, and rats all compete for food or attack young birds, so controlling them is start. You can use Tim traps for opossums, especially as they are so destructive on our native plants. Likewise, your moggie likes birds too, so put a bell on its collar to give the bird a chance before your cat pounces.
To attract honey feeders, you can use a nectar feeder, such as a metal channel with sugary water in it, hanging from a tree. Once they come to feed, you could kindly persuade them to hang around and even breed.
The main way to get these desirable birds into your garden is with appropriate planting. I have listed below some native plants attractive to the birds mentioned, with flowering or fruiting at different times of the year.
Spring: flax, kowhai, rewarewa, tree fuchsia
Summer: rata, pohutukawa
Autumn: totara, kahikatea, kapuka
Winter: puriri, tree fuchsia , coprosma, wineberry, titoki, hinau, fivefinger, pittosporum, mahoe.
Metrosideros robusta, rata
Phormium cookianum, flax
While the exotic tree lucerne is attractive to kereru, it is considered a little too rampant as a nurse crop plant.