A Fly­ing Visit

One of the many up­sides of car­ing for na­tive birds in our gar­dens means they will ap­pear more fre­quently.

Good - - CONTENTS - Words Kahu de Beer

How to cre­ate a bird­friendly gar­den at home

Grow­ing up, my dad and I were mem­bers of the Royal For­est and Bird Pro­tec­tion So­ci­ety. We would at­tend meet­ings and go on na­ture ex­cur­sions; I’d al­ways have my lit­tle binoc­u­lars at the ready for get­ting a closer look at a tūi or tauhou (wax-eye). I guess liv­ing on a re­mote is­land and be­ing sur­rounded by na­tive birds was my nor­mal – I now re­alise how lucky I was.

From the front deck of our house we would see and hear all kinds of birds. I learned from a young age to recog­nise their dif­fer­ent sounds and names. On fam­ily bush walks we would see ker­erū (wood pi­geons) get­ting drunk off puriri berries and have pīwakawaka (fan­tail) fly right up to us. The ruru (more­pork) call was a sound we heard most nights and years later it still re­minds me of home.

As our pop­u­la­tion in New Zealand grows and be­comes more ur­banised, nat­u­ral habi­tats and food sources for our na­tive birds are be­com­ing less avail­able. An­other ma­jor is­sue is preda­tors such as pos­sums, stoats, rats and feral cats.

Be­cause of these fac­tors many of our trea­sured birds are de­clin­ing in num­bers. The good news is that there are a num­ber of things we can do to make our gar­dens and out­door spa­ces safe havens for them.

Bird-friendly gar­dens

Na­tive trees and na­tive birds go hand in hand, so plant­ing some of these is a great start. Try to use plants that nat­u­rally oc­cur in your area.

Va­ri­eties that flower in spring/sum­mer such as kōwhai, pōhutukawa and flax, pro­vide nec­tar for birds such as the tūi and ko­ri­mako (bell­bird) who es­pe­cially love these. Shrubs such as hebe va­ri­eties or ko­romiko at­tract the in­sects that small birds like the pīwakawaka and riroriro (grey war­bler) like to feed on.

We can also help to boost na­tive bird num­bers by leav­ing food and clean water out for them. But what ex­actly do na­tive birds eat? Many peo­ple as­so­ciate feed­ing birds with bread, but this isn’t the best choice for them as it’s high in car­bo­hy­drates and salt, and low in nu­tri­ents (maybe I need to re­mem­ber this for my­self!).

Na­tive birds live mostly on nec­tar, fruit and in­sects. To at­tract them to your gar­den, try leav­ing out bits of fruit, a sugar-water so­lu­tion – one part raw or brown sugar to five parts water works well – and cre­ate ar­eas, such as leaf piles, that pro­vide plenty of in­sects. Dur­ing the sum­mer months, nec­tar-feed­ing birds will be out and about for­ag­ing. In ar­eas where flow­er­ing na­tive plants are scarce, you can try leav­ing out a sugar-water so­lu­tion or a nec­tar feeder such as the Topflite Nec­tar Nu­tra Feeder.

Putting out ex­tra sup­plies for birds now also helps them to re­mem­ber where they can go to find food when pick­ings be­come slim in the colder months. Au­tumn is when you may see fruit-lov­ing birds around, such as the ker­erū, as there is lots of ripe fruit avail­able. Leav­ing fruit out dur­ing au­tumn and into win­ter will also draw in birds such as tūi, tauhou, ko­ri­mako, kākā and hihi (stitch­bird). Small birds like the tauhou will be grate­ful for ex­tra fats dur­ing these sea­sons – Topflite’s En­ergy Cakes, Logs and Truf­fles are great sup­ple­ments for them.

Like in win­ter, early spring is a time with lit­tle food for birds so con­tinue to pro­vide fruit and sugar water un­til there is more avail­able for them. Make sure birds al­ways have ac­cess to a tub of fresh water and a clean feed­ing area. Some­where up high and out of cat-pounc­ing reach will make them feel more at ease and en­sure they’re safe from preda­tors. Be­cause pos­sums, ro­dents and feral cats are such a ma­jor threat to na­tive birds, con­trol­ling these in your gar­den space is im­por­tant. Note also you should never put out mouldy or stale food, cooked por­ridge or salty food as these can be harm­ful to birds.

As we care for na­tive birds in our gar­dens, they will visit more fre­quently. Let’s do our part to see their num­bers grow so they will be around for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. I know I want my chil­dren to still hear the ruru call on still nights and know how spe­cial that is.

01 Teo Ce­ramic Bird­house, $ 30, ez­ibuy.com 02 Nec­tar Ring with dish for sugar water nec­tar, seed and fat balls, $ 50, sis­ter­house.co.nz 03 Gi­don Bing hand­crafted clay bird house in cream speckle, $130, gi­don­bingce­ram­ics.com 04 Topflite Nec­tar Nu­tra Feeder combo ( Tui feeder) $ 50, topflite.co. nz 05 Mouth-blown glass bird feeder, $ 99, home­in­te­ri­ors.co.nz 06 Mor­ris and James Bird Bath, $ 260, mor­risand­james.co.nz.

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