Beginners Guide To Bird Friendly Gardens

Attracting birds to the garden benefits you almost as much as it does our feathered friends. Here are 5 tips to get you started

As our cities and towns grow larger, bird habitats are decreasing in size, which is why it’s so important to provide places for birds in our gardens. Just watching the day-to-day activities of our little feathered friends can be a fascinating experience for both adults and children. Even more so when an important visitor such as a tui or kingfisher arrives in the garden. One year I had a heron sitting beside my pond in inner-city Auckland and, although I had to chase him away from his intended breakfast of three fat goldfish, I was still very honoured by his presence.

According to the laws of feng shui, birds bring harmonious energy to your garden. They are also very useful creatures to have around. Finches, sparrows, yellowhammers and many other species eat the seeds of garden weeds, wax-eyes will feast on aphids, and blackbirds and thrushes will kill pests such as slugs, snails and grass grub larvae. Read on to find out how to make your home a haven for these helpful little critters.

1. Provide plenty of water
If you enjoy watching birds then a bird bath is a must have. A broad, shallow basin is best, so they can both bathe and drink. Your bird bath needs to be high enough so that cats can’t climb onto it, with no hiding places for puss close by. Ideally there should also be tree branches or some kind of perch for the birds to sit on before and after their bath.

TIP: Clean out every few days as birds carry lice and bird droppings will contaminate the water.

2. Ensure fountains are safe
As well as bird baths and ponds, birds will be attracted to decorative water features and fountains in the garden, especially during very hot weather. If possible, try to keep cats away from such areas in the summer. Birds also like the rough stone used here as it provides a great place to perch while other birds are bathing.

3. Provide food in winter
The rules for positioning bird feeders are similar to bird baths – they need to be around 1.5 metres high so they are out of reach of cats and other predators, with ideally few plants around to conceal them. It’s also not a good idea to place bird tables and feeders near windows, as birds might fly into them when they see trees reflected in the glass.

Bird tables and feeders will ensure a regular supply of food for resident and visiting birds, but are best used when there’s not much food around. Too much food and you risk them becoming reliant on you. Young birds in particular need to learn to fend for themselves. The food you should provide depends on the type of bird that visits your garden.

TIP: Too much bread is not good for birds as it contains salt.

4. Use a diverse range of plants
Appropriate planting is one of the best ways to attract birds into the garden, with ideally a diverse mix of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Native plants are the obvious food source for native birds but most will happily feast on the nectar or berries of exotic plants too. Planting a mixture of both provides shelter and food for both native and introduced birds in your garden all year round.

5. Plant trees for shelter and food
Larger trees allow birds a safe refuge from predators, as well as a place to build nests in summer and find shelter during winter. They also provide food including insects, sap, nectar, berries or seed. This flowering cherry (Prunus) is a prime source of nectar for birds; in fact in spring, tui will often get drunk on it. Other blossom trees such as crab apple (Malus) are equally rich in nectar. Later in summer the tui will be back for the small fruit along with blackbirds, wax-eyes, bellbirds and starlings.

This article is thanks to Houzz

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