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Cheap, cheep!

26 July 2021
bird feeding sneak peek
Kōwhai flowers provide a natural source of nectar in early spring.

Kiwis love their birds, it’s a fact. Let’s look at some ways to encourage even more to your backyard, without breaking the budget.

Words Diana Noonan

We’re a nation of bird lovers, of that there is no doubt. We ‘flock’ to contribute to public bird surveys; we sail over treacherous seas to obscure islands with binoculars and long lenses. We rescue lost ducklings out of drains and call the council to gently remove nesting birds from traffic signals. We even boast that the whole community of Kiwis in Punakaiki turned off their street lighting to save fledgling seabirds flying off-course. And whenever we have a spare moment, we don a backpack and head out to monitor our local predator trap-lines. It’s no wonder, then, that so many of us feed birds in our backyards in the hopes that even more of them will come to visit us close up.

If all this makes us seem eccentric, it’s time to shrug our shoulders, because if a University of Exeter study is to be believed, birdwatching is not only enjoyable, it’s also very likely to be good for our health. The English university found a correlation between the number of trees and birds in an urban area, and its residents’ positive mental health. What’s more, wealth levels didn’t come into it. From the rich to the less affluent, everyone benefited, mentally, from the company of birds and trees.

With this in mind, how can those of us with very modest levels of discretionary spending feed the birds without emptying the piggy bank? Read on – because it’s easier than you think!

Target your species
Different bird species enjoy different foods. Rather than feed the entire avian neighbourhood, concentrate only on the species you want to attract, and choose those where feeding will be less costly. Native birds enjoy foods that are often already present (and free) in our gardens, especially those planted to attract them.

Kererū (native wood pigeon), for example, are hungry for tender foliage, flowers and berries. In the colder months, when berries are scarce, kererū greedily gobble down the leaves of kōwhai, broom, willow, elm and poplar.
In the coldest parts of the country, one of the first sources of food for kererū are the leaves of kōwhai and tagasaste (tree lucerne). Not only are these trees easy and quick to grow, but their seed comes free and germinates readily. Their flowers bring early colour (and more food for kererū) to the garden. When you notice kōwhai and tagasaste in flower in your neighbourhood, note down their position and return from early to midsummer to collect the seed.

Read more in our August Issue.

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