How to attract birds to your garden

by Sally Blundell / 31 July, 2018

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Bush, backyard or balcony? However your garden grows, there are steps you can take, says Auckland Council biodiversity adviser Ben Paris, to bring birds back to your garden.

• Get the menu right – cake crumbs, stale (not mouldy) bread and seeds will attract sparrows, starlings and dunnocks, but may deter insect eaters such as fantails and grey warblers.

• Over winter, sugar water (half a cup of raw sugar dissolved in hot water then made up to one litre with cold water) will pull in the silvereyes, bellbirds and tūī – put out a little at a time in a pot or half coconut shell and clean regularly.

• Choose the right plants – native jasmine, putaputaweta, koromiko, small hebes and flax attract insects and smaller forest birds such as grey warbler and fantail; finely branched shrubs such as matipo and kōhūhū provide nesting sites for fantails and grey warblers; kānuka and mānuka are favoured by tūī.

• A variety of flowering and fruiting plants – native plants and exotic bottlebrush, flowering gum and proteas – will ensure year-round food for birds.

• Don’t be a “tidy kiwi” gardener – leaf litter, mulch and bark provide good foraging for birds.

• Make your garden pollinator-friendly: nettles, muehlenbeckia, nettle, pūriri, maire, mānuka and wineberry will attract native moths and butterflies; build small pollinator palaces with upside-down flower pots, leaf litter and log or rock piles.

• Leave a few of your vegetables and herbs to go to seed – the flowers will attract insect pollinators.

• In the summer months, a bird bath or even shallow tray of water on the ground will attract native birds and pollinators.

• Avoid herbicides and pesticides – many can be harmful to pollinators.

• Control pests with poison or traps – snap traps, says Paris, “are like a gateway drug to pest control”.

 Keep your cat well fed and inside at night.

• Let your lawn grow – meadow gardens are a lot better for biodiversity.

• Fill your balcony with potted plants to attract birds and insects.

This article was first published in the July 7, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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