10 tips for attracting native birds to your garden

Department of Conservation —  23/11/2021

Thinking about how nice it would be to have native birds in your garden? Well, here’s some ways you can do just that!

Kererū/ New Zealand pigeon.
📷: Shellie Evans

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.

📷: Sid Mosdell

2) Encourage insects

Pīwakawaka/ Fantail 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.

Pīwakawaka/ Fantail.
📷: Sabine Bernert

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.

Tauhou/ Silvereye/ Waxeye.
📷: Ralph EB Green

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.

📷: Shellie Evans

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.

Check out Predator Free NZ to see if there is a Predator Free community near you that could provide you with a trap, or find out where you could buy one.

📷: David Hallett

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.

Pūriri flowers

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. Find out 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!

Korimako/ Bellbird.
📷: Shellie Evans

We hope you enjoyed our 10 tips for attracting native birds to your garden. So, what are you waiting for?! Follow the tips and have native birds in your garden in time for summer!

5 responses to 10 tips for attracting native birds to your garden

    SHANE MICHAEL O'NEILL 24/11/2021 at 10:26 am

    Do you have any ideas for smaller faster growing native trees that native birds will be attracted to?


    Well done. I agree 100%. May I say that even throwing wild bird seeds, oats, and cat biscuits is not desirable. Like the article says, most birds aren’t eating seeds and it encourages bad habits, aggression and not to forget spreading diseases. By feeding birds in your garden daily you discourage birds to forage for themselves as well.

    Especially in the north island birds aren’t hungry, they just look for easy opportunities.


    This is great, thanks for posting


    Quite disappointed regarding your recommendations for trees. These are way too big for your average suburban garden and if you plant these it could have really bad effects on your neighbours. Not kind to cut peoples sun and those trees are not really suitable for pruning.

    Kevin Deadman 23/11/2021 at 12:51 pm

    Your stoat photo is a load of crap.
    The chick isn’t even in its mouth.
    Surely you could do a better photo shop than that