Planting natives will attract natives
Everybody loves seeing tui and kereru in their garden but both birds are just a fraction of the native wildlife you can attract with a little effort.
Conservation Department officer Lyn Adams is promoting a style of gardening she calls wildlife gardens.
It will not only bring native birds to a garden but native lizards, butterflies and insects.
Traditionally New Zealand gardeners have copied English, particularly cottage style, gardens. Often people go as far as using English books, which recommend English plants.
The problem with that is that plants used in England to attract wildlife are very often weeds here. A classic example is buddleia, which native butterflies love.
In New Zealand buddleia is a nasty weed that chokes river valleys and competes against native plants.
If you want native butterflies, you need to plant nettles, hebes and muehlenbeckia. Planting muehlenbeckia has another big advantage – lizards use it for shelter.
The popular tree lucerne is another no no. Kereru flock to it but in New Zealand it is a weed that spreads quickly and overgrows natives. Although there is a short-term benefit in attracting kereru, if lucerne is not controlled it kills the native bush our native birds and insects rely on.
As well as planting natives, there are a number of other things you can do to make your garden more attractive to native wildlife.
Rat traps. Every garden has rats and if every household in every street trapped, there would be a lot more wildlife. Rats eat lizards and native insects, compete with birds for food and eat birds on the nest. For information on how to trap rats go to www.predatortraps . com/ downloads/ ratkillsystem1 .pdf
Controlling you cat: Cats catch birds, lizards and insects. Keeping your cat in at night is a challenge but she says if you own a cat, you have a moral obligation to support native wildlife. You can do that by planting your garden in natives.
Think native. Plants like kowhai, kakabeak, hebes, cabbage trees, manuka and native flaxes are a good start. Also plant native flowers like Chatham Island forget-me-nots, New Zealand iris and New Zealand bluebell so you have flowers in your garden all year round. With kowhai there are varieties that flower at different times, which create a better chance of attracting tui.
Think about insects: Wetas, praying mantis and stick insects are not as glamorous as tuis but they are native and need encouragement. Hebes are popular with praying mantis and stick insects, and can add colour to a garden. Insects like mulch and areas to hide in like rotting logs. Or you can make a stick stack. Just throw lots of sticks together on a stack and insects will soon call it home.
Be careful with chemical sprays: New Zealand gardeners use herbicides to control weeds and insects. Use poisons carefully and once you have control over such nasties as gorse or blackberry, try other methods. If you have a native garden with plenty of insects, insects like praying mantis will thrive and chomp through many of the pests you want to get rid of.
Ms Adams says the recent increase in tui and kereru numbers across the region has been well received. By following her simple rules, birds like bellbirds, kaka, stitchbirds, whitehead and kakariki could all become common.
Lovely: Kakabeak has a beautiful flower that native birds love.
Stone the crows: If you want a real tui in your garden the best way is to build a native wild garden.