Backyard Birds Newsletter
Attracting and Feeding Birds in Your New Zealand Backyard

 

        Autumn - 2015


Photo by Ellie Travaglia

Autumn is coming 
 Much as we hate to admit it, Summer is coming to an end and Autumn is defiantly on its way with the mornings staying darker longer and a definite chill in the air.

 Early Autumn is the one time of the year when the backyard bird scene is a bit quieter with less birds visiting the feeders. This is because there is an abundance of natural food sources for the birds to enjoy with seed heads and berries available, and also because the birds are travelling further afield now that the temperatures have started to drop. Your local birds will still be stopping by to visit the feeders but just not staying so long or eating so much. It is a good idea, at this time, to put less food out more often so it remains fresh and attractive to the birds.

At this time of year the birds are establishing their winter feeding territories. In a lot of areas they will be moving from a place that had a good summer food supply and be looking for a new territory that will supply their needs over the hard months to come. Many of the birds that do visit your feeders during this time will be out scouting for somewhere to spend their winter so having your feeders out and your nesting boxes ready is sure to attract wild birds that will stay throughout the winter and hopefully breed in the spring.

For those people who have been feeding their local birds for a few years this is a good time to be thinking about putting up another feeder and perhaps some more nesting boxes. An area will only support so many birds for a long period and it could be that your backyard has reached capacity. If there is only enough feed and shelter for the current resident birds then they will chase any new comers out of the area.
New feeders will make your residents feel a bit more charitable and may allow other birds to move into the neighbourhood. Just remember that you also need to supply them with extra shelter in the form of nest boxes or else those without shelter will be forced to try and find another territory just when winter is at its worst. You can position your winter boxes closer than you would have them in spring because while many birds prefer to nest and raise their young away from other birds in the spring, in autumn and winter they are happy to live in flocks or at least in the company of other birds. Grouping nesting boxes can make an attractive feature in your backyard.

Once again we have had many reports from our customers on the high occupancy rate of their nesting boxes throughout the spring and summer. One of our boxes has had three different families raised in it this year and now has another pair of tenants making it comfortable for a winter residence. The trick to having multiple nestings in the same box is to keep a good watch on it and clean it out when the fledglings leave the nest.
   
 


Mothers Day Special

This year Mothers Day falls on Sunday 10 May.
For two years in a row our  most popular Mothers Day Gifts have been our Window Bird Feeders and our Teacup Bird Feeders, so this year we are again offering these with a FREE 1kg of our Wild Bird Seed.

We are also including our Fruit and Seed Feeder in the FREE seed offer because we have noticed that many of these are being sent a birthday gifts to elderly people and think that they will make an ideal Mothers Day gift
Please remember that we are happy to include a handwritten gift card with the gift containing any message you may wish to send.

 

"Floral" Teacup Bird Feeder
Plus 1Kg of Wild Birdseed Mix - $35.00
NZ Wide Freight = $8.50
 

 

Window Bird Feeder (Timber)
Plus 1Kg of Wild Birdseed Mix - $25.00
NZ Wide Freight = $6.00
 

 

Fruit Bird Feeder
Plus 1Kg of Wild Birdseed Mix - $27.00
NZ Wide Freight = $6.00
 


Offer valid until May 12 2015

 




Tui Feeders

Our biggest selling items, by far, are our Tui Feeders. There is something about having Tuis visiting their backyard that really excites most people.
We get heaps of enquiries from customers that have put up a Tui Feeder and are either not attracting the local Tuis or are having other problems, so we decided to devote a whole section of the newsletter to addressing some of these queries.

Attracting Tuis to Your Feeder
Tuis and other syrup feeding birds are attracted by the colour red because most of their food is found on plants and trees which have this colour flower.
We advise our customers to add red food colouring to their syrup mix  and in most cases this will work. If you are still not seeing Tuis at your feeder then you might consider using more red around the feeder.
Previous customers have had good results after

  • Painting their feeder bright red - we have a customer with a large bush block and he painted some feeders red so his staff could locate them easily. He reports that these feeders go through three times as much syrup as his other natural wood coloured feeders.
     

  • Attaching fruit such as orange segments to the feeders - Waxeyes are attracted to the fruit and then find the syrup. It is normal on most feeders for the Waxeyes to find them first and then for the Tuis to follow. This is because both birds share the same food sources but the Waxeyes aren't as timid so are the first to try a new feeder. The Tuis keep an eye on where they are feeding and soon come to investigate.
     

  • Putting flowers from a food source on the feeder - we have heard from customers who have had success by attaching flowers from flax plants, flame trees and bottle brush trees to their feeders. The Tuis know these flowers mean food so come to the feeder and soon find the syrup.
    One customer was successful after using red plastic flowers from a $2 shop
     

  • Moving the feeder - if you have tried all the above and the local Tuis are still not coming to your feeder, you could try moving its position to another part of your backyard.
    Just because us humans think a feeder is in a good location there may be something about the position that makes the Tuis think otherwise.
    We have had good results from mounting a feeder on a wooden stake and putting it in the middle of a grass area as far from houses, fences and shrubs as we can get. Once the Tuis find the feeder and are visiting it frequently it is an easy process to move it in small steps, over a period of days to the location you want it.
     

Keeping Wasps and Ants and Bees Away From Your Feeder

One of the biggest problems our customers report is ants, wasps and bees being attracted to the feeders.

  •  The ant problem is relatively easy to combat.
    If your feeder is mounted on a wooden stake or waratah standard you can create an impassable barrier by smearing a ring of petroleum jelly completely around it.
    If the feeder is mounted to a tree or fence then the problem is a little harder to solve. Try smearing petroleum jelly in a ring around the outside of the bowl. This will stop the ants getting into the bowl but they will still be attracted to the feeder and the syrup that the messy Tuis have dropped out of the bowl. Another method is to stand the bowl in a jar lid filled with water.
     

  • A good method to solve the wasp and bee problem is to move the feeder. You only have to move it a short distance (500mm should do) The Tuis will have no problem finding it again but it will take the bees and wasps a week or two to track it down because they are not that smart, and will assume the food source is gone forever.
    They may never find it in its new location, but when they do just move it back to the original location.
    If this doesn't work, take the feeder down for a day, or so until you stop seeing the bees and wasps looking for it. You'll see Tuis searching for it as well, but they won't give up nearly as soon as the wasps.
     

  • To reduce the attraction by bees and wasps to your Tui feeder, place it in as much shade as possible.
     

  • Reduce the sugar concentration to 1 cup of sugar to 2 litres of water. The stronger the sugar solution is the more attractive it is to wasps and bees so diluting the solution should help and it will still be providing the Tuis with lots of goodness. You can sneak the sugar concentration back up in the winter when they are gone and the Tuis are needing the extra energy.
     

  • Keep the feeder clean by washing of any spilt syrup with a garden hose at regular intervals.

 Other Tui Feeding Tips

  • When you initially put up your feeder it will probably take some time to attract your first Tuis. To avoid the syrup ageing in the bottle it is best to just fill the bowl and keep the bottle in a refrigerator.
     

  • Tuis are very territorial and while your local Tuis may be content to share a feeder, many don't and a dominant male will chase the other Tuis and Waxeyes away.
     It may be a good idea to set up another feeder in a location that cant be seen from the original one to allow the other birds to feed. Even if the dominant Tui decides that both feeders are his he cant be in two places at once so the other birds will still be able to feed.


Feeding the Smaller birds

While many people enjoy feeding any local wild birds that appear at their feeders some people feel sorry for the smaller finches and other birds that cant compete with the dominant and more numerous larger birds.

One of our customers, Bryan Wells, has sent us the photo below showing how he has overcome this problem using one of our Pole Mounted Roofed Feeders.

Here is a photo of the bird feeder we bought from you with the slight adaptations we have built around it. We added a door and 25mm mesh around the feeder to keep out sparrows, and we added a wider base to allow the birds a landing spot around the feeder.

We left the wire off for about 10 days & then I made up the door and wired the whole thing with the 25mm mesh. This mesh is slightly too large as the smaller sparrows can just get through. Once the winter comes and we get more of the smaller birds coming down from the bush to feed I will add some fine wire to reduce the apertures to about 22mm and that should exclude the sparrows.


Bryans Bird Biscuit Recipe

We make up a thick biscuit of dripping and a combination of muesli and “wild bird seed” (50/50). We buy the dripping and muesli (in bulk) at the supermarket.
Gently melt the dripping on low heat (or it burns), about 4 tablespoons. Remove from heat and add about 2 cups of muesli and 2 cups of bird seed. Mix thoroughly.
Turn out the mixture into a flat plastic container and compress with the back of a spoon (I use a compression weight from our espresso machine).
Place container in fridge to set & then break off biscuits as needed.


Tuis in the news

Tui are one of world's most intelligent birds

An Auckland study into the native call of the tui has revealed its song ranks as one the bird-world's most complex. New research places the tui amongst a handful of intelligent birds that can produce more than 300 songs, with some singing thousands. Researchers at Massey University believe it can help improve the survival of the native bird by identifying the reasons behind their songs.

Read complete article >>>

 

 Female tui are faithful. Yeah right

For the first time, researchers have been able to peer into the sex lives of tui - and have been surprised by what they've found.
The famously noisy birds have long been understood to form socially monogamous relationships, where a female will choose one male to breed with. However, Massey University researchers have found this doesn't stop dissatisfied females casting their eyes beyond the nest for a better bloke - even if it's the neighbour.

 While finding chicks sired by other fathers isn't uncommon among monogamous birds - the average rate of these are about 11 per cent - PhD candidate Sarah Wells discovered that figure for tui is 57 per cent.

Read complete article >>>


Kitset Bird Houses

Our Kitset Bird Feeders and Bird Houses are proving really popular as gifts for children.
We have also sold quite a few to schools for woodworking projects and even some to retirement homes for use in Occupational Therapy.

The photo below shows how, with the help of some ice block sticks, you can turn a house into a home.

 

Hi there.
I had a bit of fun making the bird house. I attached a picture of my wee additions.
Cheers Kenny


Top 10 Bird Feeding Mistakes

 Getting started feeding birds is really easy. Most people start by simply throwing some bread out onto the back lawn and take pleasure in watching whatever birds appear to take advantage of the free feast.
Many people graduate from this to using bird feeders and seed or syrup. It is at this stage that novice backyard birders often make simple mistakes that keep the wild birds from enjoying the feeders. While some mistakes only make the feeders unattractive, others can endanger the birds.
By avoiding these top 10 bird feeding mistakes you can ensure your backyard birds not only enjoy your feeders but also remain healthy throughout the year

1) Using Only One Kind of Bird Feeder
If you use only one type of feeder you are limiting the number of species that will come to your backyard. A tray feeder is great for most of the larger birds but the smaller breeds such as the finches prefer a perch to sit on while feeding.
Using just the one feeder means that the smaller birds must compete with the larger ones and often they will miss out.
 It is surprising the extra birds you will see at your feeders if you use several and target the seed to the feeder e.g. a wild bird mix for your feed tray and a finch mix for your perch feeders.

2) Letting the Feeders Remain Empty
 
Refilling feeders promptly will attract a wider variety of birds  While it is OK to let your feeders run out occasionally or remain empty for several days while you go on holiday but a feeder that is consistently empty won't attract many birds.
A feeder which is normally filled and is suddenly left empty for a long period of time wont cause the local birds to starve but they do grow to depend on the feeders as a food source so there is a good chance that some birds will go hungry until they can hopefully find other food.
If you are going on holiday for a few weeks I am sure the local birds would appreciate you asking a neighbour to fill your feeders every 3 to 4 days.

 3)  Feeding Your Birds Bread
For birds bread, biscuits, and other heavily processed products are the same as hamburgers are to us humans. They taste good, fill you up but don't provide adequate nutrition if that is all you eat.

Bread is great to give your birds a treat but never feed it to them exclusively. The worst time to be feeding a lot of bread to your birds is during the spring when they are taking food back to their young, who are in need of nutritious food to help them grow.

 4)  Not Cleaning Feeders
This is one of the worst mistakes that a beginner can make. Wild birds have a relatively low immunity to diseases because in the wild they don't actually come in close contact with many other birds.
A dirty birdfeeder can harbour bacteria, mould and spread diseases that can decimate backyard bird populations. Overseas where bird feeding is more widespread there have been cases of Infected birds spreading illness to other backyards and wild populations, creating epidemic conditions that have wiped out entire nesting colonies.
All your feeders should be cleaned at least once per month, but popular feeders may need to be cleaned more frequently depending on how many birds use them.

The best way to clean most feeders is to scrub them with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts hot water.

 5)  Using Cheap Birdseed
 It is often tempting to buy the cheaper supermarket birdseed but this is often false economy and you are filling your feeders with food that only a few of your backyard birds can eat.
The cheaper brands of seed often contain a large percentage of "filler" seeds to bulk them out but  appeal to very few bird species so you will end up with most of it scattered on the ground as the birds peck through it.
It is better to buy different seed mixes that target the birds in your backyard e.g. use a good wild bird mix in a tray or bottle seed feeder and also a finch mix in a smaller feeder or tube feeder. This allows most of your visitors to eat the wild bird mix and the smaller birds will feed on the finch mix without having to compete with the larger species.
If you have doves or pidgins in your area then use a third feeder containing a dove mix. By doing this you will be surprised how little seed ends up wasted on the ground.

6)  Making Bad Syrup
 Syrup for Tuis, Bellbirds and Waxeyes should only be made using plain white sugar. Never use honey, brown sugar or other sweeteners. These do not provide the proper nutrition for the birds and produce mold that is fatal to the birds.

7)  Keeping Your Backyard Too Tidy
 
While many of the birds that visit your backyard feeders enjoy the free feed they need more than this to stay healthy.
Many birds, like the Blackbird, get most of their dietary needs from eating insects, snails and slugs that they find in the garden. By providing small areas of wilderness in your garden you not only create a habitat for the birds to find their food you are also supplying them with nest building material and shelter.
If you only have a very small backyard then consider using mulch under your flowers, shrubs or vegetable plants. This small act alone will pay huge dividends in the amount of different bird species that will visit your yard.

8)  Storing seed improperly
Seed that is not stored properly will begin to rot, creating mould and mildew that can be dangerous, even fatal, to birds. Storing birdseed in a safe, secure way can eliminate these problems, heavy duty plastic zip bags, or sturdy plastic containers with airtight lids are ideal for this purpose. Keep these in a cool and dry place.

 9)  Placing feeders too far from cover and trees
While most people are careful not to position their feeders to close to bushes and shrubs so that cats can not take advantage of these hiding places while waiting to pounce, many birds wont use feeders that are to far away from cover.
Smaller birds like to perch on safe branches, scan for danger, then dash in for the seed, retreating to safety as soon as they have eaten
Experimenting with the location of your feeders will probably result in more species using them and those that are already visiting them staying around to enjoy a longer feeding period.

10)  Not Supplying Water
Like all animals, birds need water to survive. Though they can extract some moisture from their food, most birds drink water every day.
Birds also use water for bathing, to clean their feathers and remove parasites. For these reasons, a dependable supply of fresh, clean water is attractive to most birds. In fact, a birdbath will even bring to your yard birds that don’t eat seeds and wouldn’t visit your feeders.
Providing water for birds can also improve the quality of your backyard bird habitat and should provide you with a fantastic opportunity to observe bird behaviour.
For those people who live in the colder areas of New Zealand please remember that the local wild birds will still need water when it snows so filling a bird bath (or any suitable container) with warm water several times a day during this period will defiantly be appreciated by your local birds.
Wild birds need water as well as feed at all times throughout the year although many can take advantage of puddles in the wetter months.

 


 

Know Your NZ Birds

The Bellbird
 

 
Bellbirds can be found throughout New Zealand except in the top of the North Island. Their modern day habitat is native and exotic forest, scrub, farm shelterbelts, parks and gardens.
Their numbers were far greater before the arrival of the European settlers who destroyed large amounts of native forest that were the Bluebirds natural habitat. Their numbers were further decimated by
the introduction of predatory species such as cat, weasels, ferrets, stoats and cats who either kill the parent bird or eat the eggs in the nest. The decline in numbers occurred in many of New Zealand's native bird species but for some unknown reason this decline was halted and the Bellbirds numbers has climbed again until they are once again common throughout most regions.
Read Article >>>
 



Question and Answer Section

Q.  I am curious to know why none of your nesting boxes have a dowel perch below the hole starling or sparrow.
Brian Strong.
Riverton, Southland


A. Hi Brian
This is a common question.
 Nesting boxes don't have a perch because it allows other birds or even mouse and rats to sit on it and get at the chicks when they are in the nest or getting ready to leave it.
The lack of a perch does not hinder birds from entering the nest, if you think about all the strange places you have seen birds nesting like under eves etc you will understand that a perch is not necessary.

Q. Hi Keith,
At the moment we are getting a lot of window strikes from them and always the same window.  I don't know what has changed as we have lived here for 5 years and a loss of 4 in one week is quite shocking.  Can you suggest anything?
Regards Donna

A. Hi Donna
4 in one week is a lot especially if you haven't had many before. It could be many things e.g. a plant has recently matured and is providing food for the birds where there wasn't any previously, or have you put up a new feeder somewhere? It doesn't take much to cause glass strikes just birds flying from a new place back to their nests via a new route.
There are a few answers but they will all cause you some inconvenience.

  1. Stick decals or tape to the window
  2. Allow dirt to build up on the glass
  3. Net curtains
  4. Anything to show the birds that there is glass there and its not a short cut back to their nests

I hope this helps Please let me know what method you tried and if it was a success

Hi Keith,
I have had no window strikes since I cut out a picture of a tiger and stuck it to the window.  It did cause some amusement with the neighbours and cause my dogs to bark at first.
Thanks for the advice.
Regards, Donna

 


 

Photo of the Month
 

"Hi Just thought you may like this photo of the Tui at the drink station. We are very pleased to have purchased the feeder from you as it attracts the birds in droves… great to watch"
Thanks Ellie Travaglia

"Thought you may be able to use this one of the Waxeyse in action after being at the sugar-water feeder"
Thanks Tony Travaglia

"Hi Keith
Just a quick email to say thank you for the Tui feeder (prompt delivery etc), and more importantly IT WORKS (see photos attached).
Very happy birds (albeit with newly acquired sugar addictions!!)
Fascinating to watch!!"

Many thanks
Denise

 

We love receiving photos from our customers and have decided to include the best ones in each newsletter, so please send us your photos.


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