One of the signs of a vibrant and healthy garden is a profusion of birdlife. Birds are pleasurable to see and hear, but they also have a practical purpose. Wild birds eat a huge variety of insects, seeds from unwanted weeds, and sometimes even small rodents. If you are trying to control pests in your garden, attracting birds will go a long way to help. Weed and insect killers are expensive and toxic to the environment; while birds don’t do any damage at all and are rather a treat to have around.
Appealing to birds doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. You can buy or build a birdbath that you keep topped up with fresh water and they will come flying. Birdbaths will be successful as long as there is shallow water in which your garden visitors can ruffle their feathers and groom. Hang or secure some wooden platforms in your trees for their snack trays. What to feed them? Just follow your common sense and avoid anything processed that contains preservatives, colourants and other toxins. Here are some ideas:
Crammed with taste and vitamins (and often lovely little pips and juicy centres) fruits are a firm favourite with garden birds with a sweet, um, beak. Try grapes, spanspek (melon), oranges and bananas. Birds can handle chilli peppers with ease as they don’t feel the burn, and they love the seeds.
Veggies and legumes
Try setting out some (thoroughly washed) broccoli, cauliflower or carrots. Excellent sources of protein, boiled beans have a great texture and can be mashed up and scooped into the recesses of pinecones to entertain your garden birds for hours. Sprouts can be fun too, just make sure they are washed and free of any pesticides if you have bought them from a supermarket.
Birds seem to adore pasta, whether it’s straight out of the packet or boiled (and cooled). Pasta is chockablock full of carbohydrates and some shapes – like the shells – can be great when filled with peanut butter.
Bread, cereals and grains
Crumbs or chunks of wholegrain breads are popular and a good source of fibre. You can smear some peanut butter on a bagel or chunk of stale bread and roll it in seeds for a special birdie pudding. Many birds also enjoy snacking on popcorn, which you can serve either popped (in a microwave to avoid too much oil) or raw. If you choose to serve the kernels unpopped, soften them first in boiling water and don’t use salt or any flavourings. Also try sprinkling oats, shredded wheat or any leftovers of muesli on your birdfeeder.
Don’t go nuts
Many birds will appreciate these delicious delicacies, but they are very high in fat so serve them seldom and sparingly. Nuts can be beneficial in terms of exercise, as some birds will spend ages strengthening their beaks and jaw muscles on the shells. Always make sure the nuts are unsalted.
My grandparents have a little Cape Robin called Boytjie who comes to visit them on their stoep (veranda). Sometimes the cheeky little thing hops in through the door and pokes his beak into the kitchen to chivvy my grandparents along. His treat is finely grated cheese, and he enjoys rusk or biscuit crumbs too.
What are your tricks for attracting feathered friends?
Jade Scully is a copywriter, blogger and online marketing enthusiast who has published her work on a series of online publications and websites including Africadventure, Entertain SA, Technifrique, The Greenery, Youdidit, Firstpage as well as Leeulekker.