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


        Autumn - 2015

Photo by Lesley Collier

Winter is Here
 This winter is shaping up to be a lot harder for the wild birds than previous ones. Many of our customers have told us there are far more birds at their feeders and they seem in poorer condition than they have been in the last few years.
I'm not sure why this is but it could be the speed in which one cold storm is following another and the birds aren't getting much a chance to get out and forage for food.

Although we in the north aren't getting the high winds that are hitting the lower north island and south island, we are still noticing that the wild birds are seeking shelter in our nesting boxes and are staying in them until we get a few days of sunny calm weather when they disappear until the next cold front moves in.
This is a really good sign for next spring because these birds will remember the nesting boxes when it comes time to breed and return to them.
It is for this reason that we put up extra boxes at this time of year. Initially, like most people, we put up our nesting boxes in the early spring but since we have realised that the birds really need the shelter in the winter we have had a dramatic increase in the number of young being raised in them during the spring.

Many customers have been ordering extra feeders because they are noticing a lot of fights taking place at their present feeders. This is something we have also noticed as the resident birds try to defend their food supply from hungry birds moving into the area.
Out of all the different foods we are putting out, the high protein suets and seed cakes are defiantly the most popular at the moment.

Birdfeeding with Binoculars

For many years, like most people, we were quite happy to simply admire our local birds at their feeders without any extra equipment but once we started using binoculars we had to wonder how we ever did without them.

Not only do they allow you to stay further away so that the birds interact with each other in a more natural way but they also let you see the colours and details of the birds in so much more detail.
A good example of this is the courtship rituals of various birds that I had never seen until I started using binoculars and when you think about it this really makes sense. If the birds are concerned about danger in the form of a human being to close then they are hardly likely to take time out to start their various mating rituals. Being able to study the birds from a greater distance allows you to see a whole different side to their behaviour.

It takes a bit of practice to be able to follow a moving bird while looking through binoculars or even find them while they are sitting in a tree. It can be quite frustrating to see a bird with the naked eye, and then to loose track of it completely when you look through your binoculars. But if you persevere you will be really glad that you did 

The two most important features of a pair of binoculars are their magnification power and their lens size.

 It is a common misconception that binoculars with the highest possible magnification are the best for bird watching. In fact, the opposite of this is true, and binoculars with a magnification of just 7x, 8x or 10x are recommended for bird watching. The main reason for this is that they provide a more stable and clearer image than binoculars with a higher magnification as they are less affected by slight hand movements which can blur and distort images.

Lens Size
A large diameter lens will allow more light to enter the binoculars than a small one so the image you see will be brighter. They are also ideal to use in low light conditions such as dawn and dusk when a lot of the bird action is happening in your backyard.

If you need advise on which binoculars are the best for you we recommend you visit
Scopeuout is a small family owned New Zealand firm based in Wellington. James and Jodi are keen bird watchers so they understand exactly what you require when it comes to binoculars and they give a fast and reliable service.

Winter Bird Feeding

Wild Bird Coconut Feeder
An attractive and easy to hang coconut shell, filled with a nutritious peanut flavoured energy food, sure to attract a wide variety of New Zealand wild birds to your garden. Once the energy food has been eaten the shell can be reused as a nest or a feeding station .
These make a quick and easy extra winter feeding station


Wild Bird Coconut Feeder - $12.60
NZ Wide Freight = $4.00


Wild Bird Energy Truffles

These nutritious, high energy treats attract most species of wild bird and can be fed from our Fat Snax Feeders or simply placed on a bird table.
They are a simple, no-mess solution for winter bird feeding.
Once your wild birds get a taste of these energy cakes you will be amazed at the number of wild birds that feed on them. I know we were.



1 Packet of Wild Bird Energy Truffles - $11.00
NZ Wide Freight = $4.00

Wild Bird Energy Cakes
Topflite's Wild Bird Energy Cakes offer your New Zealand wild birds an immediate and important source of energy essential for survival, particularly over the winter months.
They contain only the highest quality ingredients including vegetable fats, peanut flour and wheat flour.
These nutritious treats attract most species of wild bird and can be fed from our Suet Feeders or simply placed on a bird table.
They are a simple, no-mess solution for winter bird feeding.

Wild Bird Energy Cake - Wild Berry - $6.75
NZ Wide Freight = $4.00
Wild Bird Energy Cake - Nutty Peanut - $6.75
NZ Wide Freight = $4.00


Try Hand Feeding Your Birds

Some of us humans are strange creatures.
When we start feeding birds we really enjoy the first ones finding our feeders and it is always exciting when a new bird makes its first appearance. And while most of us are content just to feed the local wild birds and watch them from a distance some want to go the next step and have a closer relationship with their feathered visitors.

 Begin by filling your feeders at the same time every day, preferably in the early morning, when the birds are actively seeking food.
After a few days of putting the food out and walking back into your house stand or sit quietly for a few minutes about 3 or 4 metres away from the feeder. Talking softly to them is OK but try not to smile, birds look at our facial expressions for cues, and showing them your teeth, swallowing or opening your mouth widely will be interpreted as aggressive signs.

 Keep repeating this and you will find that eventually the less timid birds will come down and start to feed. In a few more days you will find quite a few birds coming down and then you can start reducing the distance by a foot or two every so often and waiting until the birds have again become comfortable with you being there. Its OK if you miss out on a day or two but the birds will accept you faster if the routine is regular.

Eventually you will find the birds coming to the feeder while you are standing next to it and although the temptation will be great don't rush the next step. Put your hand on or near the feeder and just leave it there. It is a small step from this stage to put the food into your hand instead of in the feeder. Eventually one of the braver birds will come and feed and before you know it the whole mob will be there.

This takes time and perseverance but the results are really gratifying so if you want to take your bird feeding to the next level then give it a try and please let us know how you get on.



Feeding Peanut Butter

At this time of year the wild birds need as much energy as they can get to stay warm.
Wet and stormy weather is a big problem because it limits the time the birds can spend looking for food which, in winter is already scarce and hard to find.
To help them survive the winter we need to put out food that is both
high in calories and fat content. Peanut butter is one of the most simple and easiest ways of doing this.
There has long been an urban myth that you can not feed peanut butter to birds because it will become stuck in their bills and throats, and kill them. This is another complete myth, and there is no recorded evidence of peanut butter ever being a problem for birds.
Only feed UNSALTED peanut butter because most birds don't have the excretory mechanisms to get rid of salt from their bodies, so salt causes dehydration which can result in death.

A simple way to feed peanut butter is to coat both sides of a slice of bread or toast and then dip it into bird seed. These are ideal for use on table feeders or suet feeders.

Wild Bird Cupcakes


  • 3 cups of dripping

  • 1 cup of chunky peanut butter

  • 2 cup of uncooked oatmeal

  • 2 cups of bird seed or sunflower seed

Mix ingredients into warm dripping before it hardens, stir to combine.
Spoon the mixture into a paper lined cupcake pan. Cool the cupcakes until hard.
You can freeze any extra cupcakes until you need them.

 Suet Balls


  • 2 cups of stale bread or unflavoured bread crumbs

  • 2 cups of dripping

  • 2 chopped apples

  • 1 cup of chunky peanut butter

  • 1 cup of bird seed

  • ¾ cup of brown sugar

  • ½ cup of raisins

  • ¼ cup of mixed, chopped nuts

Mix all ingredients (except the  bird seed) into the warm dripping before it hardens.
Stir to combine.
Shape about a handful of the mixture into a ball.
Roll the ball in the bird seed and press them into place.
Allow them to cool until hard before using.


Pine Cone Feeders
This is a good, easy project to do with the children on one of those long winters day when everyone is stuck inside.

1) Find a pine cone.
2) Tie a piece of string around the top to hang it with.
3) Mix two tablespoons of peanut butter with two tablespoons of butter or margarine.
4)Spread the peanut butter and margarine mixture onto the pine cone.
5) Pour some bird seed into a shallow dish and roll the pine cone in it.
6) Place the seed-covered pine cones in the freezer for about an hour or until it is firm.
7) Hang it outside in a tree and watch from inside as the hungry birds find it.

Hamilton Halo Success Story
Bringing Tui Back into Hamilton City

One of our main aims at Backyard Birds is to encourage people to create environments in their backyards that will attract wild birds back into the cities and the suburbs where they were once common.

By planting and pest control some areas have been quite successful in attracting birds back but none more so than Hamilton with their Halo Project.

Native birds such as Tui and Bellbirds were once abundant in the area where Hamilton stands. Due to introduced pests (rats and possums) and loss of habitat and food sources, many of the native birds are rarely seen in the city.

The Hamilton Halo project aims to bring native birds back into Hamilton city. The 'Halo' is a ring drawn around Hamilton, taking in key sites where tui breed. The halo's radius is approximately 20km, as this is how far Tui will fly to feed.

Hamilton City Council, along with private groups and organisations, is working with land owners to plant key sites within the city. This planting is combined with a vigorous pest control  program The result is a year-round source of food and safe habitat for Tui to breed in.

Pest control is also important.
Tui nesting success is very low because of predators that have been introduced to New Zealand. In recent studies, only about a quarter of monitored nests, around Hamilton fledged young. This is mainly due to ship rats and possums, which climb trees and invade Tui nests, eating the eggs and chicks.

The projects success is amazing.
We were first alerted to this project by Hamilton customers buying Tui Feeders and then excitedly reporting that they had Tuis feeding in their backyard for the first time in living memory.
It may be hard to believe but until recently, only one Tui fledgling had  been recorded in Hamilton in the last 100 years but now they are quite common. Five years ago, seeing a Tui in Hamilton was extremely rare but this year there were more than 1600 sightings were reported.

For more information check out


The Mystery Bird

 A customer sent us these photos in the hope that we could identify his bird feeder visitor. He says that it is about the size of a sparrow and mixes well with all the other birds.

 We have asked our experts and no one is really sure what it is. The wedge shaped tail, the shape of the beak, the yellow on the primary feather and the touch of grey point to the greenfinch, but the light yellow shouldn’t be there. All we can think of is that it is some sort of cross breed or hybrid. If anyone has any ideas please let us know.



Know Your NZ Birds

The Kaka

The Kaka is endemic to New Zealand. Although they are found in lowland and mid-altitude native forests on all three main islands their numbers are greatest on several of the offshore islands and at some sites on the main islands that are close to these offshore island refuges.
They are becoming common in the Wellington area where they were reintroduced in 2002 at the mainland island sanctuary at Zealandia (Karori Wildlife Sanctuary), and now have now bred to more than 300 birds.
At one time they were far more numerous but their declined due to forest clearance and the introduction of rats, possums and stoats.

Read Article >>>

Interesting 1080 Fact

We have never taken part in the 1080 aurgument because, like many people, we simply didnt know all the facts but while researching the Kaka we came across this interesting story on Wikipedia.

In Pureora Forest Park 20 kaka were radio-tracked in an area to be treated with aerial 1080 in 2001. In nearby Waimanoa Forest, which was not to be treated with 1080, nine kaka were radio-tracked.
In the area where 1080 was used, all 20 birds survived that season.
Of the nine birds tagged in the untreated area, five were killed by predators that same season.

Question and Answer Section

Q. Hi there
 I have a young puriri tree (about 6 years old). For the past two to three years, it is covered in flowers in winter.
A Bellbird discovered the tree last year and everyday this year since late May has been coming along to join the silvereye. So, having bought a couple of tui feeders last year, I put one up in tree to the delight of the bellbird and silvereye. I live in an area where I have only ever seen a bellbird about one per year and never had a tui near my place. So, naturally, I am very excited.

Then, about 4 days ago I saw a tui arrive and feed from the tree, I had seen a tui intermittently but rarely. It took a day for it to discover the tui feeder. In the past two days, this large healthy and wonderful bird has been sitting in the tree all day guarding the feeder against all comers from dawn to dusk. So, I have not had to refill the bottle for the past two days and it is still very full (I used to fill it every second day). I saw this tui fight off another tui yesterday.

 As much as I love watching this bird, I do miss my daily bellbird and the silvereye.

Couple of questions:
1. If I did nothing, would this tui eventually share? I wonder how others get photos of lots of tui together as mine is extremely aggressive.

 2. When does the sugar water spoil so I should empty the bottle so it doesnt harm the tui?

3. Does putting up the second feeder in an alternative location help?

4. Or am I better off using feeders for the bellbird (and silvereye) that are not stable enough for the tui's size.

Did not anticipate this but amazing to look out my window and see a tui calmly sitting in the tree guarding the feeder all day long! Thanks
Brian Lowe.

A. Hi Brian
 Its a common problem.
Tuis are normally extremely territorial and I am amazed at some of the photos our customers send us of groups of Tuis sharing a feeder.
We have a resident Tui that spends all day trying to keep about 15 other Tuis out of his Pohutakawha tree.

The solution is to put up another feeder, preferably out of view of the original one and the tree. The Tui cant be in two places at once so this will allow the other birds to feed.

 At this time of year I wouldn't worry too much about the syrup harming the Tui although if you are concerned you could remove the bottle and store it in your fridge and use it to hand fill the bowl.

 A solution may be to remove the feeder until the Tui leaves town and then replace it
 Please let me know how you get on
Regards Keith

Q. Hi Keith,
I have had Rosellas make several enquiries at nesting in the starling boxes I have spread about our property. Should we encourage them and if so how would we provide them with nesting sites?

 Thanks for the large Tui Feeder which you delivered to my home last week. It is a hit as it compliments the smaller version I have in place. Yesterday both bottles were cleaned out by Tuis and white eyes etc. It was a busy day in our backyard!
Regards, Graeme (Whangarei)

A. Hi Graeme
While some people may see Rosellas as a pest I personally can't see any problem with encouraging them to live and breed in your backyard. They are an attractive and interesting addition to any yard.
They have a bad reputation because it is thought that they eat fruit of the trees and while this is true I haven't found any evidence that they consume any more than any of the established species of birds in New Zealand, in fact the surveys I have read report most of them feeding on the ground.
 In Australia this may be more of a problem but our Rosella flocks are so much smaller and don't seem to be increasing at any great rate. I read a survey recently that put the average flock number as 3.5 birds.

The other problem that people suggest is that they compete for nesting sites with some native birds. Again this may be true but it can also be said for many other introduced species and in your area with so much native bush surrounding you I wouldn't have thought this was a problem.

They nest in a box similar to a starling box but with a much larger entrance hole (70 - 80 mm )
If the Rosellas are looking at your other nest boxes you stand an excellent chance of having them move into a nest box if you put one up
Regards Keith




Photos of the Month

Thank you Keith, order arrived. I have attached a photo of the waxeyes on the tui feeder. The second fill up of the day, cannot keep up with the demand. Regards, Donna

Today there were quite a few kakas at one time and I think some are getting inpatient for the sugar water and there can be a bit of arguing going on as to who can drink and who has to wait! 
This evening around 5 pm I had as many as seven kakas on the trellis and at the feeders.  I have attached a photo that has four kakas at and around the two feeders (the feeder closest to the camera you can see just the head of the kaka at the feeder, he's feeding from the side). 
I live in Karori, Wellington and attribute many of the birds I see here to the living close to the Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary.


Photos by Lesley Collier Wellington

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