This article is the sixth in a series by Sue Baker of Dunbogan Bushcare and the Mid North Coast Branch of the National Parks Association, partner groups in the Dunbogan-Crowdy Bay National Park Habitat Corridor Project, funded by the NSW Environmental Trust. Funds from the $129,333 grant will be used to restore biodiversity through extensive weeding and planting work over four years.
A few simple steps can turn your garden into a bird’s paradise. In turn, the birds will pollinate your plants, provide natural pest control, birdsong and joy.
Shallow birdbaths placed above ground away from cats, in a shaded area to keep the water cool, and placed next to foliage in which small birds can escape are a key attraction. A variety of shapes, sizes and depths will suit a variety of birds. Shallower is better than deeper.
Baths, however, will do more harm than good if they are not clean, free of algae, and regularly refilled with fresh water. Algae growth is worse on terracotta surfaces. Baths with glass surfaces have little algae growth. A good cleaning combo is a scouring pad and baking soda. This also applies to bird feeders, although wildlife experts strongly advise against feeding native birds.
It is extremely important not to feed birds bread or other similar human foods, including feeding seabirds cooked fish and chips. It does them a disservice, but may kill them instead. The same goes for sunflower seeds, which are sometimes found in large quantities in bird seed mixes. High in fat, birds love and seek them out and in doing so miss out on the protein, vitamins and minerals they need. Ground meat should never be on the menu because it stays inside the beaks of birds.
Our plants and our birds have evolved together so it is better to plant local species; most non-native ornamental species do not provide the food birds and insects need. A detailed guide to local species is Indigenous Plants of Greater Taree, produced by the Mid Coast Council, available for download. Nurseries can give advice. Port Macquarie Landcare has a native tube plant nursery – see www.landcarereportmac.com.au/plant_list.
Plant a variety of layers – ground cover (eg purple coral pea, native violets), native grasses (eg barbed wire grass, kangaroo grass), rushes (eg lomandras,) vines (eg clematis native, wonga vine, wombat berry), shrubs and trees will cater for all.
Small birds are in decline, with predation by cats being a major factor and habitat loss another. Wrens, finches and robins like the densely planted lower layers.
Shrubs and trees that provide nectar, seeds, shelter, and insect hosts include wattles, bottlebrushes, tea trees, banksias, and paperbarks. Lilli pilli, tuckeroos and blueberry are excellent fruit providers.
Some excellent sources of ‘all-the-birds’ information are www.backyardbuddies.org.au, www.birdsinbackyards.net, YouTube – Australian Garden Habitats for Small Aussie Birds and at www.renew.org.au/Gimme Shelter: Birdscaping. Also on this website is an excellent article Nurturing Nature When You’re Designing a New Home or Renovation.
And remember the things we looked at in previous articles: using compost, mulch and leaf litter that can be scraped off for insects, avoiding the use of toxic and harmful chemicals and baits that go up the food chain, and use organic sprays and fertilizers instead. You might even think of birdhouses.
Dunbogan Bushcare Group (Monday mornings) will plant 1600 rainforest seedlings in May. For more information, phone 6559 7134. Friends of the Pilot Station (Tuesday mornings) on 6559 6740 and Friends of Kattang on 0412 743 883.