10 tips for attracting native birds to your garden

Department of Conservation —  21/05/2023

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

Here are 10 top tips for attracting native birds to your garden or backyard…

Kererū. 📷: Shellie Evans

1) Plant nectar producing flowers and native fruits

Korimako/bellbirds and tūī enjoy a sugary diet of nectar and fruit for most of the year. Plants that produce lots of flowers and fruit will entice these two native birds and they will likely spend much more time in your garden.

Kōwhai, harakeke (flax) and Northern rātā are other 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.

Tūī. 📷: Sid Mosdell

2) Encourage insects

Pīwakawaka/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.

Pīwakawaka. 📷: Sabine Bernert

3) Don’t put out bread for birds

Our native birds go gluten-free – they don’t 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) If you put out sugar-water…

Sugar water can be a supplemental food for nectar-eating birds. It doesn’t give birds all the nutrients they need, but it can be a good energy boost especially over winter when flowering plants are scarce. 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 dish (cleaned regularly) and placed somewhere safe where cats can’t easily reach it. Use some plastic netting to keep out small non-native birds that may spread diseases.

Tūī. 📷: 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 from rats and stoats

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.

Stoat. 📷: 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!

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

    David Stewart Ann Elizabeth EDWARDS 14/06/2023 at 5:54 pm

    Re cat-proofing your garden realistically; Get a Dog. Golden Retr

    Murray Woods 23/05/2023 at 11:17 am

    Birdbaths will encourage birds – also Guava and Loquat trees.


    I agree with all and have planted many native plants in my garden – even had a weka join. Unfortunately, what I find utterly infuriating, is lack of cat owner understanding. Cats are rampant, out all hours and roam freely. Not one do I see with a bright collar or bell to give the birds any chance. Weka has gone,probably killed, and there are less birds. We need to do better and cat owners need to be more responsible – ‘collars for cats’.


      Fiona, why not just predator-proof your garden?

        Matt Montgomery 06/06/2023 at 8:27 pm

        Bridgette that is a little unfair to Fiona. It’s quite simple to put a bell on a cat that is encroaching on a neighbouring garden. Predator proofing a property to stop your neighbours cat from entering is unrealistic.
        I can’t imagine you were seriously suggesting it.


    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.