Attracting small birds to your garden
I regularly receive comments and questions about birds on this blog. I also receive comments and questions via my contact page here. I welcome these interactions with my readers.
This morning I received a question from a reader who is concerned about the finches in their garden.
We have been establishing a large area of garden for finches. Unfortunately I have a few crows now living around as they have decided my chook pen is a good restaurant. I have now cut off the egg supply but they are still around. Will they be deterring the finches from living here and are they a threat to them?
Thanks to Lee for that question.
Lee should be congratulated for these gardening aims. I assume that you have done your homework and planted bushes and grasses suitable to attract birds in general, not just finches. Finches – along with many of our smaller birds like honeyeaters, thornbills, weebills, chats, wrens and pardalotes – require a certain level of bushy shrubs to feel safe from predators. Plants like callistemons, grevilleas, melaleucas and hakeas provide protection, food sources, nesting sites and roosting sites.
Finches, being primarily seed eaters, also require a range of native grasses. These are becoming increasingly popular in gardens, not just to attract birds. Their colours and textures add significantly to the Australian feel of a native garden. Finches also love a reliable source of water, so a bird bath is essential to keep them around.
Crows, ravens, butcherbirds, currawongs and even magpies are all species that will raid the nests of smaller species of birds, including finches. They often take eggs and will also raid nests for the hatchlings. This is the natural cycle of life. Birds of prey such as falcons, hawks and kites will also raid nests, and also have the ability to take the adult birds resting or even flying.
The crows in your garden are probably resident birds. This means that they are not only present every day, they breed there or nearby. Your chook pen just provided them with an easy option. Closing access to the chook eggs was just a temporary setback to them. There must be sufficient food available for them to hang around.
Providing the finches have sufficient protection, a reliable food source, nesting and roosting sites, they should thrive in your garden. The crows and other predatory species I mentioned are a threat but probably not a deterrent.
For more information about Australian plants go to my wife’s blog: Mallee Native Plants
Good gardening – and enjoy your birds.
Birds and Plants of Pangarinda Arboretum
Last week we had a short picnic at the Pangarinda Arboretum at Wellington East about a half hour drive south of our home here in Murray Bridge, South Australia.
It was a sunny winter’s day and the birds were very active, especially the honeyeaters. I didn’t get much of a chance to take photos of birds because none would sit and pose for me -except for one very cooperative New Holland Honeyeater.
So instead of getting upset with the uncooperative birds, I spent most of my time taking photos of the many plants in flower.
Click on the photo to enlarge the image.
New Holland Honeyeaters
Last week we went for a short picnic lunch to the Pangarinda Arboretum at Wellington East, South Australia.
The breeze was cool – it is winter after all – but the sun was pleasant if you were out of the wind. While we had our lunch about half a dozen Welcome swallows entertained us by swooping all around. Two of them seemed to be having a race (breeding behaviour?) and as they swept past me they nearly collided with my nose.
While there were plenty of plants already flowering this spot will only come into its own in the coming month of so. Many plants were not yet flowering. Despite that the birds were already busy feeding on those plant that were in flower. The New Holland Honeyeaters, Red Wattlebirds and Singing Honeyeaters were particularly active everywhere through the park. We only stayed several hours but it was a pleasant diversion from the intense writing I have been doing over the last few weeks.
White-winged Choughs, Botanic Gardens, Canberra
The White-winged Choughs I saw in the Australian National Botanic Gardens earlier this year are obviously used to large numbers of people visiting the gardens. They seemed quite at ease with me taking photographs of them from a few metres away.Â They were more intent on finding something to eat.
Choughs spend much of their day on the ground, scratching in the dirt or removing any mulch put there by gardeners. One of them found a buried cone from a tree and there was suddenly a great kerfuffle and they all came running to have a taste of this delicacy.
I didn’t distrub them to have a closer look at the cone, but in the photo it seems to be something like a Hakea seed cone. It could also have been a Banksia seed cone.
We usually have a plentiful number of honeyeaters resident and breeding in our garden and the nearby mallee scrub. Probably the most numerous is the New Holland Honeyeater. This would be closely followed by the Red Wattlebird and the White-plumed Honeyeater. We also have several Singing Honeyeaters. From time to time we have visits from a small flock of Brown-headed Honeyeaters. They love splashing in our bird bath. Several other species visit only rarely. Some I haven’t seen here in many years.
One species we usually have around the garden somewhere is the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, as shown in the photos on this post. This species has been rather quiet lately. Just before I managed to race for the camera and get these shots the adult bird was feeding a young one. They must have been keeping their presence quiet while they were nesting.
This species is found throughout much of mainland Australia but not in Tasmania. It is also absent from the tropical north, coastal south east and far south west of the continent. Its preferred habitats include drier woodlands, scrubs and gardens.
The plant shown in the photos is Eremophila glabra.
When they were little, our children used to call this bird the “yoo-hoo” bird. This is one of its calls and is quite memorable. My wife and I still refer to it by this name.