Giving birds a helping hand

Spring is here and I've been watching a pair of thrushes raising a family of two chicks outside my lounge window.

It's been lovely to watch the female building the nest, sitting on eggs and finally feeding the eager chicks. These fledged yesterday and are now hiding out under the kanuka tree they grew up in.

Thrushes and blackbirds thrive in our gardens, feeding as they do on earthworms, slugs and snails of which there is an abundance. But what of birds that feed on other food types? Many of us put out sugar water and plant nectar-producing trees to attract tui, for example, but how do you attract other types of native bird? It comes down to providing three things – food, a place to nest and safety.

Two birds which I love in my garden are fantails and grey warblers. These birds have similar needs which are not often provided for. Both are insect eaters – the acrobatic fantail or piwakawaka, catches its food in the air while the warbler combs branches and leaves for insects. As a rule, insects require some level of untidiness to thrive, and so aren't abundant in most tidy urban gardens. But if you have the space and want to try it, there are things you can do.

Around my own quarter acre I have planted fast-growing kanuka, which provides great cover and, along with manuka, is a favourite of both fantails and riroriro, the grey warbler. Both birds regularly feed among these trees and grey warblers even nested there last year.

Underneath the kanuka, kawakawa and karo are growing, and the ground is covered with a forest-floor of leaves and twigs, great for more insect life. My compost bin also seems to be a favourite place for fantails.

We can also help birds with the third prong in their survival, safety. Keeping cats inside where possible helps and trapping rats is another simple garden activity.

Find out from Pest Free Hibiscus Coast how you can become part of the community trapping project Forest and Bird is supporting on the Coast.