Attracting Birds

Attracting birds is surprisingly easy. All they want from your garden is food and shelter.

Shelter for a nest, shelter from a storm, shelter from cats and a place to roost overnight. Basically that means trees trees and trees. Trees provide nooks for nests, shelter from wind, a vantage point to view enemies and of course a branch to perch at night time.

To eat, birds will seek nectar from flowers, seeds, fruit and insects. A mixture on the menu from your plant selection or a bird table will do the trick. If you want to encourage a specific type of bird, read below to find out what they might like. Most urban parts of NZ you’re likely to see these birds.

Fantail – a plucky character with the distinctive fan shaped tail. They’re renown for their show-off aerobatics as you walk nearby. They’re not really interested in you as such, they just grateful for the insects you are disturbing. They only eat a variety of insects so the use of insecticides is not helpful for the fantail’s menu options. Native.
Silvereye – a small demure bird wearing a designer colours and always white eyeliner. Like teenage girls at the mall, they flit about from shrub to shrub in groups chattering all the way. Very entertaining to watch. They like to eat insects, fruit such as grapes and apples, and lard. Native.
Tui – a proud kiwi (but not a kiwi) black/brown and dark blue/green feathers with a distinctive white plumage above a proudly puffed chest. Tui are fairly common in urban areas of Wellington but are sadly extinct from Canterbury. They mostly live on the nectar particularly from flax, kowhai and pohutukawa flowers. Native.
Bellbird – is a strapping fellow in his camo green coat. They have a distinctive song and feisty attitude. You will hear them scalding Tui and other birds over food sources. They will eat a range of berries and nectar from native and exotic plants plus a few insects too. Try planting coprosmas, banksias, grevilleas, wattles, or cabbage trees to supply a feast for bellbirds. Native.
Grey Warbler – small average looking grey bird but beautiful song. Fairly shy in nature. I’ve never seen one but I have heard them, very melodic. They enjoy the dense security of a hedge and access to lots of insects, spiders and caterpillars. The Grey Warbler are often victims of fraud by the work of another bird, the Shining Cuckoo. Native.
Shining Cuckoo – is a disloyal and deceitful native bird who also call other nations home. It will travel the pacific while Grey Warbler parents unwittingly raise their much larger young. They are also clever ventriloquists mimicking the calls of many other birds. A Shining Cuckoo needs no encouragement. Native.
Blackbird – Black is always the “in” colour for this stroppy bird. I think they have a hypertension disorder, they are always alarmed by everything and paranoid about intruders in their territory. Blackbirds also need no encouragement. They have multiple clutches of babies each year and they and they eat up the good worms from the soil, leaving a mess on the footpaths. Introduced.
Song Thrush – wears a delightful cream and brown polka-dot outfit to compliment their musical songs. They are a similar size to the blackbird but they are more welcome as they gleefully gobble up slugs and snails that cause damage to plants. Introduced.
Starling – are the glamor darlings with their shimmering black plummage, lightly bedazzled all over. They can be assertive birds pushing smaller birds out of the best nesting spots. The will eat a range of foods from insects, nectar, fruit, crumbs and lard. Provide them with several ideal nesting boxes means they will leave the other birds alone. Introduced.
House Sparrow – are humble but fearless small birds with unassuming brown tones. The males wear big-boy bibs on their chests to show off how tough they are. Sparrows love to eat crumbs and scraps so they survive well in human environments. They can suffer from diseases and parasites so it’s helpful to provide a birdbath and keep any bird feeders clean from decay. Introduced.
Dunnock – Also known as a Hedge Sparrow. Looks similar to the common House Sparrow except they are more slender with slightly longer beak. They prefer to eat close to their home in the hedge picking up insects, spiders, small berries and seeds. Introduced.
Chaffinch, Greenfinch, GoldFinch and the Yellowhammer are all colourful creatures known for their ability to destroy a crop before it has a chance to grow. They may not be related species but they are similar behavious and diets. They will enjoy a good seed selection in a bird table or bird feeder. Introduced.

There are of course others like the woodpigeon, kingfisher and welcome swallow but these are the ones that are more likely to take up residence in your backyard.

Why do you want birds in your garden? Well you’ve gotten this far through the blog about birds… I doubt you need further convincing. They are entertaining to watch and lovely to listen to at dawn and dusk when they’re most active. Not only that, birds are an important part of the balancing act that we call ecosystems. That is, they keep blooming populations of insects in check… if only they could prioritise the aphids! In a way they also provide us with a few free plants and fertilizer via poop in the garden too.

One more thing to do for birds in the garden is install a bird bath. Typically I don’t like traditional looking features in gardens like a classic bird bath in the centre of the lawn but who said it had to be a traditional one? A bird bath is like a town square for the community of birds in your garden and in this analogy the bird table is the local supermarket. Birds are really entertaining to watch thrashing about in water as they scrub up. It’s also good for their health to keep clean. A bird bath works well in the open so they can see potential threats coming i.e. cats, but they also like a branch nearby to wait their turn and preen afterwards to re-waterproof their feathers.

I’ll be interested to know what birds you have in your garden.

silver eye birds

2 responses to “Attracting Birds

  1. Thanks for this great article! We have tuis, fantail (less each year though), wood pigeon, kingfisher, thrush, blackbirds and starlings around our garden 🙂 We also have quail which are so interesting to watch, they have babies are the moment (little fizzy things, so cute!).

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