Bringing Home The Birds

Brendan has some tips on what it takes to entice birds to come and enjoy themselves in your garden.


Offer plenty of fresh, clean water and change it daily. It's a good idea to have a raised water bowl, safe from the threat of ground predators.

A birdbath is a perfect offering. It should be at least 100cm above ground level, and surrounded by perches and branches where birds can preen after their bath.

Birds can drown easily, so never fill the birdbath with more than 5cm of water. Use stones or pebbles to create a shallow area where smaller birds can bathe.

Birdbaths in full sun will breed algae growths, making the water slimy, so always choose a shaded spot for your bath. Never place the birdbath in the middle of the lawn, as most birds don't like to be so exposed.


Misguided bird lovers often provide domestic food for birds, but bread, honey, scraps and even seeds can introduce disease, dependence and change bird behaviour. It's far better to plant a diversity of suitable vegetation in the garden.

Many birds eat a variety of foods including insects, seeds, nectar and fruit. A bird-friendly garden will include local native plants that provide a range of food types.

White and yellow flowering plants such as Native Heaths and Grevilleas provide an indirect food source. Their blooms open during the night and are a magnet for moths and other insects, creating a food source for insect-eating birds. Other insect-attracting plants are Kunzea and Melaleuca species, Woolly and Coastal Tea-tree, Manuka and Dusty Daisy-brush.

Flowering trees, particularly red ones such as Banksia and Eucalyptus, are a rich source of nectar, as are exotic flowers such as Camellias. Other nectar-producing plants that attract birds are most varieties of Bottlebrush, Correas, Sweet Bursaria, and Honey Myrtle.

Beware of planting too many Grevilleas. If they dominate they will attract territorial birds like Noisy Minors and Wattle Birds who will keep smaller birds away.

Fruit trees such as stone fruit, apples and almonds are also a beacon for birds, sometimes to the detriment of their crops. Flax Lily, Lily-pilys, Wattle and Black Cyprus Pine are also good options for seeds, and parrots love wattle seeds!

Many native grasses also supply seed for birds. Microleana stipoides (weeping grass) and Imperata cylindrica (blady grass) are the antithesis of the well-mown lawn but they provide an excellent habitat for birds and butterflies.

Shelter and safe nesting sites

Creating a safe, sheltered habitat will attract more birds to your backyard.

The best shelters include prickly shrubs, dense climbers, hollow trees and logs, piles of rock, and plants which are bushy to ground level. Nest boxes made of untreated timber and attached to trees are also appealing.

To keep a flourishing ecology you will have to forsake passions for neatness, fence-to-fence lawns and pesticides.

Keep domestic cats indoors at night because this is the time they hunt to kill.

When pruning trees back, leave a little length on the branches – up to a metre – so that birds can nest in the hollow.

A layered garden that includes mature trees and a shrubby undergrowth of dense foliage or spiky plants with small flowers will provide food for smaller birds. It will also provide refuge from aggressive bigger birds such as noisy miners, other large honeyeaters and pied currawongs.

Birds like a safe corridor on which to travel round your garden. Try not to have large gaps or wide open spaces, which will intimidate them.

Trees obviously provide refuge and good nesting options. Blackwood, Snow in Summer, Hakea and Burgen are some to consider – larger birds such as magpies, parrots and kookaburras love a tree canopy.

Birds are generally most active in the early morning and tend to quieten down around midday. They don't like windy days.

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