It’s Conservation Week next weekend. One of the ways you can get involved is by protecting the native birds in your backyard. Here are some ways you can do that:
1. Plant nectar producing flowers
Korimako/bellbirds and tūī enjoy a sugary diet of nectar and fruit for most of the year. If you grow plants that produce lots of flowers and fruit, these two native birds will likely spend more time in your garden.
Kōwhai, harakeke (flax) and Northern rata are good sources of nectar, while tī kōuka/cabbage trees, kahikatea and māpou provide fruit.
You can find a full list of the types of plant that produce nectar and fruit, and when on our website.
2. Encourage insects
Fantails rely solely on insects for food, and korimako/bellbirds and tūī will also supplement their diet with bugs sometimes. So the more insects in your garden, the more food for our natives.
Insects love leaf-litter, so you can attract them by having areas in your garden where you let leaves pile up on the ground instead of clearing them away.
3. Don’t put out bread for birds
Our native birds don’t much like grains, and so are unlikely to eat the bread you put out for them. Instead that bread will attract introduced birds like sparrows and blackbirds. These birds can become dominant and crowd-out our natives, especially the small ones, meaning you might have birds in your garden, but they won’t be natives.
4. Instead put out sugar-water
Sugar water is the perfect food for nectar-eating birds. You can make it by mixing 1/3 of a cup of sugar (preferably brown or raw) with 1L of water. Make sure your sugar water is in a clean dish, placed somewhere safe where cats can’t easily reach it.
5. Plant trees away from windows
Reflections from glass can confuse birds, and many native birds are killed every year from flying into windows. If you plant trees a little further away from your house you’ll be helping to prevent this from happening, and protecting the native birds that decide to spend time in your garden.
6. Keep the birds safe
Our native birds aren’t good at protecting themselves or their family from introduced animals like mice and rats. Rodents will eat their eggs and chicks, so it is important that you make sure your property is safe for the young natives.
7. Plant flowers that provide food in winter
Nectar-eating birds have plenty of food in spring and summer when plants are flowering, but they get hungry in autumn and winter because there’s less food around.
If you want to encourage birds in your garden all year round, make sure some of your plants are providing food during the colder months. Pūriri provides nectar, fruit and seeds all year, and kohekohe is a good source of nectar in the winter months too.
For more information on which plants are providing food at different times of the year, have a look at our website.
8. Make sure they have something to drink
Birds need water too, and it can sometimes be hard to come by.
Providing a water dish in a safe place away from the reach of cats, rats and dogs will mean birds have something to drink, and somewhere to take a bath. Having running water, such as a fountain will attract the most birds, as they will be able to hear the water and know to come looking.
9. Reduce risk from cats
Cats are natural predators of birds, which means that if you have a cat you might have fewer birds in your garden.
There are a few ways that you can make your cat more bird-friendly though, including feeding your cat regularly, keeping it indoors at night and desexing it. Find out more ways to make your cat conservation friendly here.
10. Encourage your neighbours to plant native-friendly plants too
Different birds need different things when it comes to gardens, and it is important that there are enough plants around to support them. While your garden might not be big enough to encourage a bird family on its own, you can increase your chances of having them move in if the areas around your garden are strategically planted too.
If your neighbours get involved and plant some native-friendly trees, soon enough your neighbourhood will be teeming with birds!
It’s Conservation Week from the 14th – 22nd of October. Get involved by protecting, growing, nurturing and caring for our nature.