Trap first, feed later
Whenever you set up a bird feeding station in your back yard, you’re encouraging your feathered friends onto your property. In fact, well managed, a feeding station is likely to recruit birds from other areas. That’s why it’s so important to clear your property of predators before you begin. To help you find out what predators you have around your section (rats and mice are almost a given, especially if you have a compost bin, but you may also have stoats and possums) check out Predator Free NZ. On this site, you’ll also be able to order the traps you need. Traps are a great investment but they aren’t cheap. If you’re not in a position to purchase one, contact your local council, DoC office or Forest and Bird Society branch to ask about borrowing one.
Say ‘sayōnara’ to the spider spray
You may not want to her this but if birds really are your friends, it’s time to say ‘no thanks’ to the spider-spray people when they phone up. Staff at wild life hospitals around the country are constantly dealing with injured birds that arrive at their clinics with systems compromised by chemical toxins – and the culprit is insect spray. The commercially applied spray generally kills insects on contact, but not always immediately. Birds feeding off these insects may not die as a result, put the poison takes its toll on their systems. What’s worse is that insects are a source of the very protein birds seek out for their chicks, so the poison takes a double toll. Instead of spraying, try to look on the cobwebs as nature’s way of dealing with insects. Or if you really can’t live with them, try your own home-spraying regime using a mixture of grated bathroom soap dissolved in hot water and citronella oil. Apply to external doorways, walls and eves using a hand-pump pressure spray (rinse it out thoroughly before using to rid it of any chemicals it may have contained).
Don’t feed seed
If it’s native birds you want to encourage in your backyard, forget the seed-feed – New Zealand birds don’t eat it. In fact, by feeding seed, you’re actually encouraging non-native species such as sparrows and blackbirds which occupy territory and force the natives off your property. Wild life experts advise that the best thing you can do to encourage birds without harming them, is set offer them drinking water and a bird bath in a container that is out of reach of predators (including cats). If you live in a very chilly part of the country, you may want to offer your birds sugar water in a sugar to water ratio of 1:8 ratio.
Ban the bread (and nuts)
Metabolic bone disease is a serious problem for birds, especially kākā , which are fed on bread or nuts. It weakens bones and causes deformities in chicks who receive the food, regurgitated, from their parents. Offering fruit and sugar water solves the problem.
Plant and protect
Planting birds’ natural food in your property is the best way to care for your feathered friends. DOC has some helpful suggestions. If you live in a chilly part of the country, planting Chamaecytisus palmensis – Tagasaste (Tree Lucerne) is also helpful. Although it is not a native, Tagasaste does develop new growth and flowers very early in the season (sometimes even in late winter).