Planting for Birds
The simplest way to attract birds to your garden is to plant suitable trees and shrubs. Birds are dependant on plants for shelter from their enemies and the elements, for nesting sites and often for food. Plants also support a wide variety of insects which are the main food for many birds.
Birds do not necessarily prefer indigenous plants. Contrary to popular opinion, there are many exotic plants that seem almost more popular with birds than the indigenous varieties. It is, however, important not to cultivate or plant any declared noxious weed.
Excellent plants in the garden are:
∑ Karee trees (Rhus species)
Tough and easy to grow, their flowers are eaten by some species, while their multitude of tiny berries feeds the birds all summer, before going on to dry and form a lifesaving winter larder.
These are both beautiful and useful. Easy to grow even in dry areas, their flowers are absolutely laden with nectar, and will attract Sunbirds, Sugarbirds, White-eyes and many more. Aloes are protected plants, and must be bought from a registered nursery.
∑ Pyracantha (with thorns) and Cotoneaster (without thorns)
These are probably the best single plants to plant in any garden. Absolutely laden with brightly coloured berries for many months, the birds love them. A well trimmed and dense example also provides excellent nesting sites.
∑ Red Hot Pokers (Kniphofia spp)
These are useful, nectar- producing flowers. They grow well in most areas, and are available in both summer and winter flowering varieties, allowing you to have them in bloom almost all year.
∑ Wild Figs (Ficus species)
These grow best in warmer areas, and grow very big. Nevertheless they are extremely popular with all fruit-eaters, and worth trying if you have the space. The domestic or commercial fig is also much loved if you donít mind losing fruit to the birds.
∑ Tree Fuschias (Halleria Lucida)
These have russet flowers followed by edible black berries. They grow well in most climates, and are well worth trying.
∑ Wild Dagga (Leonotus Leonuris) Ė donít worry, you canít smoke it
This grows extremely well all over the country, and Sunbirds find its flowers irresistible.
∑ Dogwood (Blinkblaar, Rhamnus Priniodes)
This always looks immaculate and produces berries almost constantly. Grows easily as long as it is well watered.
∑ Seeding Grass
If you have an area that can be allowed to get a little wild, sow a little mixed bird seed , and see what comes up from this Ďlucky packetí. Seed-eating birds prefer this fresh seed to the dried kind any time.
Check your local nursery and also look around in your area. Which plants are bearing fruit or nectar and are full of birds. Those are the ones to go for.
By Gordon M Duncan
Animal Talk May 2000