Bring birds of a feather flocking to your garden

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:

Fruity fun

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.

Pasta

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.

Cheese

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.

7 Responses to Bring birds of a feather flocking to your garden

  1. emme October 29, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    i read once, but have never tried it myself, that you can put out bone meal for ‘meat eating’ (more like insect eating i imagine) birds.

  2. Jean October 29, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

    There is lots you could leave out for them, but so much more exciting planting stuff that birngs their natural food to your garden, and you will be addding to biodiversity too.

  3. Toastie October 29, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

    … like dog and cat hair the spring to get those birds a nesting.

  4. mol-d October 29, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    i agree with jean. i’d be would be inclined to plant indigenous plants that would create natural feeding environments..

  5. claudette baker October 29, 2010 at 9:07 pm #

    i personally think indigenous plants is the way ,back to basics.

  6. Helen October 30, 2010 at 6:46 am #

    We have a small birdbath in our garden, that a large hah-de-dah likes to frequent.What about monkeys and all those tasty snacks!

  7. Jean October 30, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

    See my November Newsletter for loads of plant ideas to suit different wildlife diets. http://www.treefrogs.co.za

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