Save native birds in your backyard

Did you know that 80% of New Zealand’s native birds are in trouble due to factors like habitat loss and introduced predators?

If you’d like to lay out the welcome mat for native birds, it’s essential to make sure our garden is a safe and attractive place to visit (or even live, if we’re lucky).

· Set traps to keep predator numbers down.

· Keep cats inside: extra important at dusk and during the night.

· Place feed stations and birdbaths out of reach of introduced predators.

· Clean bird feeders or water bowls regularly to prevent disease.

· Provide plentiful water for birds to drink and bathe in, especially in summer.

Rather than simply feeding native birds, the best long-term plan is to create an environment that’s naturally full of food. Native trees and shrubs provide shelter, food, and nesting places. Planting and protecting them will attract native birds.

· Consider planting a range of natives so your garden is a year-round source of berries, nectar-bearing flowers, seeds, insect habitats, and even lichen and moss. Kōwhai, Pūriri, Makomako and Kawakawa are perfect.

· Group plants at various heights – including some taller ones – for diversity and bird safety.

· Let twigs and leaf litter build up on the ground. This creates a home for the insects that many native birds, like our beloved piwakawaka (fantail) rely on for food. And it’s good for your soil too.

· If you have room, create a more private “wilderness” area away from the house where birds can nest and rear their chicks.

The need to feed
While your native planting gets established, you may need to supplement with some food. Try hammering some nails high into a fence-post or board and putting fruit on the nails for nectar loving birds – try orange halves, pears, apples, kiwifruit and persimmons.

Avoid feeding native birds these five foods

· Grain – it attracts introduced birds to the detriment of natives.

· Bread – birds that eat a lot of bread can become malnourished.

· Dairy – birds can’t digest milk and it can create stomach problems.

· Honey – birds love honey water, but this practice can spread bee diseases.

· Cooked oats or porridge – as they can turn to ‘concrete’ around a bird’s beak.

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Published 1 October 2021