Attracting Birds to Your Garden
By Eric Anderson
Plants provide food for birds both directly and indirectly. Many, such as banksias and grevilleas, are pollinated by birds and provide nectar that is rich in high-energy sugars. Other plants rely on birds to disperse their seed and the reward is in the form of energy-rich fruit. The seeds of plants such as wattles and grasses are also eaten by a range of birds. Plants also provide habitat for insects that are eaten by birds and are rich in protein – most birds include insects as a significant part of their diet.
Shelter and protection
Most animals, including birds, form part of the diet of other animals. Birds must always be vigilant against predators and this involves either evasive action or a retreat into shelter. The thickets of understorey vegetation are important habitat elements for many bird species, particularly the smaller ones.
Nests mostly need to be robust, provide good insulation and be well camouflaged. Materials needed include sticks, bark, grass, spider web, lichen and moss.
Most eggs that are produced by birds are eaten by predators (typically 70%) so there is a high demand for concealed nest sites such as can be provided by thick understorey vegetation and spiky shrubs. Harder to provide are the larger nest hollows required by rosellas and lorikeets. In these instances consider providing nest boxes – check out the Birds in Backyards web site for general tips on building and locating nest boxes for a range of birds.
Birds need fresh water but they are vulnerable when they are drinking or bathing and need to feel safe. Birdbaths need to be in dappled shade and beyond the reach of cats. Replace the water and clean the bath regularly. Dense shrubs should be available nearby in the garden to allow birds to escape if threatened.
It is much healthier for birds to obtain natural food from our gardens than to be fed directly by people. If you want to feed make it an occasional treat (for you and the birds), not a daily event. Ensure that the feeding area is out of the reach of cats and other predators and that it is cleaned daily. Be cautious about feeding meat-eating birds as they can become aggressive to humans and attack vulnerable smaller birds. Only use native seed mixes rather than bread or sunflower seed.
- Healthy soil means healthy garden – mulch, mulch………..
- Do not start from scratch – add plants to your garden and let them establish before removing unwanted vegetation.
- Give preference to local native plants.
- Create density – small birds need shrubs to provide protection for food and nest sites.
- Plant a variety of plants – some that attract insects, some that provide nectar, some that provide fruit and plants that flower at different times of the year.
- Avoid hybrid natives with big showy flowers where possible. These provide lots of nectar all year round and the big honeyeaters they attract chase/keep smaller birds away.
- Put in a birdbath or two.
- Keep an eye on your nest boxes to stop introduced birds or feral honeybees taking over.
- Allow birds to forage for food naturally in your garden rather than feeding them.
- Protect birds from your pets. Keep cats indoors or in a run and have an area of your garden that cats and dogs cannot access.
Bird Contact Links
Birds in Backyards – www.birdsinbackyards.net
Birdlife Southern Queensland – www.birdlife.org.au
Birdlife Sunshine Coast – www.scbab.blogspot.com.au
Contact Ken Cross – firstname.lastname@example.org Outings 1st Saturday of the month