How to attract birds to your garden
Now is an excellent time to provide nesting, resting, feeding and breeding sites for birds in your garden.
The best feeding programme for birds is to plant shrubs and trees which offer nature's menu. Aloes, watsonias, lion’s ear (Leonotis spp.), red-hot pokers ( spp.) and wachendorfias will attract nectar feeding birds such as the sunbird. Seed eating birds are attracted to the seed heads of grasses and grains. Plant patches of mixed bird seed and you'll be fascinated to see the response from local birds. Seed eaters also thrive the seeds of ordinary daisies (such as the euryops daisy). Leave the dried out dead heads of daisies for as long as you can to give the birds time to take most of the seed at the end of summer.To attract fruit eating birds, such as the loeries, plant fruit producing plants. Try the tree fuchsia (Halleria lucida), dune crow-berry (Rhus crenata) or white stinkwood (Celtis africana).Did you know that the local weavers, sparrows, loeries, sunbirds and even crested barbets will flock to your garden if you discover how to plant up bird-friendly plants or install a nesting box, bird feeder or bird bath in your garden. This is a basic guide on how to attract birds to your garden:
Established trees will naturally provide a source of shelter and roosting spots for many birds and a garden which is well planted with indigenous trees will attract numerous birds throughout the year. Good roosting sites are provided by the Henkel's yellowwood (Podocarpus henkelii), fever tree (Acacia xanthophloea), karee (Searsia lancea), sweet thorn (Acacia karroo) or buffalo thorn (Ziziphus mucronata. Creepers such as the black-eyed Susan (Thunbergia elata) can be draped around the branches of trees to provide a secluded nesting site for robins or flycatchers. Grasses, including reeds and bulrushes are valuable suppliers of nesting material to weavers who suspend their nests from trees.
Mulch and compost
Leave fallen leaves and logs in the garden as these will provide micro-habitat for various insects, grubs and worms, which will in turn attract insect feeders such as Cape robin-chats, Karoo and olive thrushes as well as African hoopoes. These birds love the dense undergrowth of gardens where they turn over leaves and debris in search of grubs. Dead logs and tree trunks make ideal nesting spots for birds such as barbets and woodpeckers.
Water for birds
Every garden should have a bird bath in the quieter part of the garden preferably near thick foliage and established trees, so that the birds can perch nearby and not feel exposed. Avoid placing a bird bath directly underneath tree branches, as falling leaves and bird droppings may soil the water. Keep the bird bath topped up over winter, as many birds will frequently visit to drink and bath. Bird baths come in various shapes and sizes, but most importantly, they should be anchored securely so that they don’t topple over.
Feed the birds
Feeding stations for garden birds come in a range of shapes and sizes. A common variety is the seed-dispersing tube type feeder whereby you place bird seed on top by removing a cap. A feeding plate attaches to the bottom and this will hold the seeds which are gravity fed. As the birds feed, the seeds will filter down and spread over the plate. These are often equipped with small perches, allowing only small birds such as finches and sparrows to feed, but making it difficult for large seed eaters such as doves and pigeons to perch and feed, which would otherwise rapidly finish off the bird seed.
These feeders can be hung from a tree branch. Other bird feeders include platforms where bread, seed, fruit and suet and can placed. They often have spikes where fruit can be anchored for fruit eating birds. These bird feeders can be placed on top of a sturdy pole or hung from a tree branch. For the really dedicated, consider breeding your own mealworm colony, which will provide a delicious treat for grub feeding birds.
Hollowed out logs, available from garden centres, are a favourite with barbets who use them for breeding. Anchor the logs vertically on tree trunks several metres off the ground. Traditional square or rectangular box nests are also available and can be anchored securely around various parts of the garden.