Our gardens are essential habitat for a wide range of birds. Flowering and productive plants and shrubs, soil and organic material provide nectar, shelter, places to build nests and important sources of food. Birds such as thrushes and blackbirds help to pollinate feijoas and other fruit trees and bushes but by far the most useful part that birds play is that of pest control. Birds eat a wide range of garden pests from snails and slugs – a favourite of many songbirds – to aphids, caterpillars, grubs and beetles. Birds are general predators – meaning they eat beneficial as well as pest insects so their input is varied. They are an added diversion in our gardens, many of them such as tuis, robins, thrushes and fantails are great company. They are fun to watch and their song often makes the garden a more pleasant place to be.
Birds do eat fruit and most of the time the likes of grapes, raspberries, strawberries and others are protected with mesh when their fruits are ripening. Windfalls and the straggling fruits at the end of a crop are quickly cleaned up by birds which helps to keep the garden tidy.
Avoid using any chemical pest controls and weed killers in your garden. If you wipe out all the pests you deprive birds of an essential food source.
Don’t keep your garden too tidy. Many small birds like to root around in piles of leaves for food – especially in autumn and winter. Leave a corner of your garden stacked up with organic material.
Put a bell around on your cat’s collar, it may give the odd lucky bird a warning in time to fly off.
Plant trees and shrubs to offer shelter from cats, places to build nests and perches.
Allow your plants to form seed heads at the end of summer, this provides birds with a useful source of food as the population of insects generally dies down.
The following produce seed heads that are popular with many birds that visit our gardens.Calendula, Cornflower, Cosmos, Fennel, Parsley, Sunflower, Marigold, Zinnia, Sedum, Rose, Echinacea/Coneflower.
In summer, avoid putting out food for birds as this will fill them up and take their attention away from the pests in your garden. A good way of drawing them in during the warmer months without feeding them is by placing a birdbath in your garden.
Feed birds in winter. Putting out apples, seeds and nuts on a bird table will keep a resident population of birds in and around your garden. Old pine cones can be stuffed with fat and hung on a string for birds to peck away at over time.