A garden needs birds. There are some purely selfish reasons for wanting birds in your garden. The soundtrack of a garden is composed of the many and varied bird choruses.

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However the real benefit of having birds around is for the garden itself. Birds are in the upper part of the food chain in most urban gardens. They feast on nectar, insects and spiders. I have a beautiful, as yet unnamed, black fantail that spends around 30 minutes every day carefully picking hundreds of lerp insects off smooth barked gums in my garden. Lerps are the crystalised sugary coverings found on some psyllid insects. As a result the trees are in wonderful health.

The steps to getting a healthy bird population into your garden are quite simple. Gardens need to provide birds with shelter, water and a variety of food sources. Shelter for birds can be provided in the hollow of logs, in the middle of dense thickets of plants and in the upper branches of tall trees. In smaller suburban gardens even small trees or large shrubs provide habitat. Hollows naturally form on our gum trees when branches die back and snap off. If you do have areas in the garden where dead larger branches can be left on the tree to break off naturally then you have a chance to create hollows for nesting sites. Hedges and prickly plants make great homes for small birds like finches and blue wrens. Domestic and feral cats are the number one predator for birds. Domestic cats can be tagged with a loud bell to give warning to native birds.

A source of clean water is essential for birds. Birdbaths can become filthy very quickly as different birds come to drink and leave deposits behind. Bacteria and fungi can quickly reproduce in warm weather. A quick hose every few days will ensure birds have clean, safe water. A garden pond or water feature with reticulating water is a great choice, providing clean water and additional food, with insects living on pond plants.

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Native birds are good at finding their own food. Plant a good range of nectar producing plants like grevilleas and avoid spraying insects to leave them for birds. Parrots love soft fruit of various berries like lily pillies and pig face. Food left out for birds should be restricted to wild bird mix. Experts warn against leaving out bread, homemade nectar brews like honey or jam, or any meat products. The naturally biodiverse nature of most gardens will provide enough food for birds without supplementary feeding.

Whether you have a large garden or a smaller courtyard, you can be sure at least some birds will be visitors each day. If those birds are happy, you can be sure your garden also will be happy and healthy.

Words & Images by Brian Sams