How Can I Attract Birds To My Garden?

Music 30/09/2010

There are many reasons for attracting birds to your garden, but none so important as how much life, vibrancy and entertainment they bring.


Gordon Ell wrote the NZ classic 'Attracting Birds and Other Wildlife to Your Garden' and he answers the question of how best to attract these gorgeous little creatures and entice them into your garden in the latest edition of NZ House & Garden Magazine...


"You have to provide one of three factors - food, water or shelter and preferably all three. A feeding table 1.5m above the ground will keep birds safe from cats. Place it so it's easily visible, but not somewhere you'll be passing all the time and disturbing the birds.


Different foods attract different birds. Commercial bird seed brings sparrows and finches and in Auckland you might get spotted doves - they are an escaped caged bird. Blackbirds will like half an apple stuck on a florist's spike. A hanging onion bag with a piece of mutton fat in it will attract hordes of silvereyes - we've had 20 hanging off at once. They're fun to watch as they have all sorts of social behaviours and a real pecking order.


As far as water goes, site a bird bath away from shrubs and plants where cats could lurk. Even just providing a container of water will bring birds, particularly in summer when they can find it hard to get enough to drink. Longer-term you can plant shelter for birds, trees or hedges for nesting or plants that provide food, such as kowhai, flax, Chinese lantern, prunus, acacia, Australian bottlebrush and others.


Do you have a favourite bird?

Tui are very entertaining. They'll come regularly for sugar water. One that visits us mimes a drinking action outside the window when the sugar water has run out. Tui love red feeders - that's a trick an old friend taught me. We use brown sugar - it lasts better and attracts the birds better. Half a cup of sugar to a litre of water.


Any ideas for attracting fantails?

You need plants that attract insects - fantails have to catch insects on the wing. Coprosma hedging is good or a fruiting native like mingimingi.


Is there anything I shouldn't do?

Don't own a cat! I've heard it said that one cat can kill 350 birds a year. And, if you start feeding the birds, don't just give up. You will have created an artificially large population.I f you suddenly stop feeding them in a harsh winter, they could starve."


By Gordon Ell in NZ House & Garden Magazine