Attracting Birds To Your Garden

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Attracting Birds to your Garden - Collared Sunbird - SA

Attracting Birds to your Garden. Indigenous plant species are more attractive to local birds and insects. Gardeners can determine which birds they wish to frequent their garden, by choosing plants that attract them. South Africa has a huge diversity of indigenous plants and trees, many of which are beautiful ornamental species. Indigenous plants are the most suited to our South African climate, and they do not need too much water or fertilizers.

Attracting Birds to your Garden. Common garden birds are roughly divided into seven groups, all with different requirements. These are fruit eaters, seed eaters, insect eaters, water birds, nectar feeders, mixed feeders and predatory birds.

Attracting Birds to your Garden – 7 Groups:

Fruit-Eating Birds:
Pigeons, parrots, barbets, mousebirds, turacos, bulbuls, hornbills.
Fruit Trees that produce highly attractive fruits and berries in abundance: all indigenous fig trees, the tree fuchsia (Halleria lucida), Transvaal red milkwood (moepel, Mimusops zeyheri), sourplum (Harpephylum caffrum) and white stinkwood (Celtis africana).

Seed-Eating Birds:
Waxbills, finches, firefinches, canaries and bronze manikins. These are best attracted by leaving some tufts of grass to grow tall Most grass species, including Melinis nerviglumis, Panicum ecklonii, Panicum maximum, and Phragmitis australis. Ideal would be to have several species that flower in different seasons, so that there is seed available throughout the year. Alternatively, offer bird seed on a feeding platform.

Insect-Eating Birds:
Flycatchers, white-eyes, chats, barbets, thrushes, robins, warblers, shrikes, woodpecker, hoopoes, woodhoopoes and more.
Many flowers that attract bees and other pollinators. Aloes flower in winter when there are few other resources for insects. Trees and shrubs like all Acacias, the coral tree (Erythrina lysistemon), tree fuchsia (Halleria lucida), weeping boerbean (Schotia brachypetala), buffalo thorn (Ziziphus mucronata), wild pear (Dombeya rotundifolia), Cape honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis) and wild honeysuckle (Turraea floribunda). Mulch as a rich resource for insect-eating birds. Leave some dead branches on your trees to attract woodpeckers, woodhoopoes and barbets.

Water Birds:
Ponds. To attract the larger water birds you would need a large pond in a large garden. Kingfishers are also attracted by smaller ponds.

Nectar Feeders:
Sunbirds, sugar birds, Cape white-eyes.
Good nectar-producing species are the coral tree (Erythrina lysistemon), Cape honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis), red-hot pokers (Kniphofia praecox), proteas, pincushions and all aloes.

Mixed Feeders:
Many of the birds in the above mentioned categories actually belong to this group. Sunbirds eat insects too, hornbills eat fruits and the seeds of acacias, pigeons eat insects, worms and fruits, as well as sparrows and starlings.

Predatory Birds:
Owls, in particular barn owls and spotted eagle owls. It is possible to attract owls to your garden by hanging up owl nest boxes. Owls are efficient controllers of rats and mice. The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has published a brochure on how to build owl nest boxes which is freely available.

Attracting Birds To Your Garden – General Tips:

Bird Diversity.
Some species prefer the tree tops, while others like to roam around in the undergrowth. Some like dense thickets, while others prefer more open vegetation. Nesting habitats of birds must also be taken into consideration. Many bird species like to nest in acacias, probably because the thorns provide them with some protection.
Attract birds to your garden by creating open spaces for some bird species, and densely planted areas with shrubs for birds like the shy Thrushes, Shrikes and Coucals. They will utilise these areas for feeding and nesting. One or more tall trees will act as a nesting facility and a look-out point for birds. Our indigenous acacias are the finest nesting trees available and in particular the Fever Tree (Acacia Xanthophloea).
Preferably two sources should be offered, one in the thick bushy areas and one in an open area of the garden. Remember that the containers or ponds should have gently sloping sides.
Hollow Nesting Logs or Wooden Boxes.
These can be placed high in a tree to try and attract birds such as Barbets, Hoopoes and Owls. Once established, the birds will use the nest year after year.
Place leaves and grass clippings from the garden between the shrubs. This organic material can be supplemented with mulch to provide a layer, which protects and conditions your soil. It also hosts the natural insect populations, which feed the birds. Compost provides a fertile soil which will improve the growth of the plants.
Don’t spray your garden routinely with insecticides. This may kill off the “friendly” insects like Ladybirds as well as many other animals. Spray only the affected plants with a “safe” insecticide recommended by your plant nursery, if you should encounter pest problems.
Sterile Garden.
Clean, swept plant beds and non-functional plants will not encourage wildlife. A combination of the best indigenous functional plants and exotic plants will provide a beautiful garden and a haven for birds.