How to attract birds to your garden

by Sally Blundell / 31 July, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - How to attract birds to your garden

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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