Feature

A bird in the bush

G Magazine

Birds are a wonderful feature of a well-managed garden. Here are some fabulous ideas for attracting them to your own back yard.

lorikeets

Credit: iStockphoto

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There's a reason for the saying "the canary in the coalmine". It's because birds are indeed our insight into the health of the environment.

They are valuable in many ways: they enchant us with their songs and dance and they help keep the balances in nature.

But with fast-disappearing habitat from encroaching urban development, they need a little extra help when they visit our gardens. We can do this simply by providing some of the essentials for them: food, water and shelter.

There is a critical shortage of nesting and roosting places. In most gardens and city parks, as well as in country areas, the old trees with their valuable hollows are gone.

The tall trees we mostly see now are re-growth trees - tall, but immature and without hollows. It will take 100 to 150 years before these young trees develop precious hollows needed by wildlife for homes.

So try to keep as much cover in your backyard as possible, which means planting more trees and keeping the ones you've got. Apart from plenty of cover, hang nest boxes wherever you can. This will mimic the hollows in trees.

Home away from home

Bird boxes come in many styles and sizes. Avoid the freakish, merely decorative and bizarre ones and try to think what the wildlife needs - which are natural-looking habitats.

Not all birds are cavity nesters but, in Australia, many are. Owls, parrots, cockatoos, rollers, kingfishers (including kookaburras), pardalotes and sitellas and some finches prefer cavities; others may need thick, spiky foliage.

All of them need protection from predators, so hang the nest cases and food bowls high where the birds can watch out for climbing, jumping predators.

Dining

Place water and food out for them in nesting boxes. Water is essential and we should provide it in birdbaths and drinking troughs, especially in hot weather. If you are going to feed wild birds, feed them irregularly and only use a small amount of food.

Plant plenty of flowering and fruiting native trees, shrubs, herbs and grasses for food and shelter. Birds love flowering natives with bushy and spiky leaves, such as grevillea, bottlebrush, melaleuca and hakea.

Entertainment

If you have a large area, let some of it grow tall and set up a brush pile or two if there is little or no fire risk.

Quail, finches and wrens love tangled piles and unkempt patches. Mulch your garden well and cover some open areas with mulch - it encourages insects to breed and provides many tasty treats for the birds.

You'll find that your small efforts in the garden will improve your environment and enjoyment of the wildlife that comes to visit your garden.