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


        Autumn - 2016

Photo by Julia Czerwonatis

Autumn is coming 
 Once again daylight saving is over and the days are defiantly getting shorter, but before we dive into winter hopefully we will have a long and mild autumn.

This is the time of year when you may notice less visitors to your feeders. This is because there is normally an abundance of natural food around for the birds and also because your local birds are travelling further afield looking for the best location to spend the long cold winter they know is coming.
If you have been following our advice about creating a complete habitat for your wild birds you may not notice any decrease in the numbers of birds at your feeders because your local birds realize they are on to a good thing and know that they wont find a better place to spend their winter.

You may notice a bit more fighting and aggression around the feeders as the local birds try and defend their territory from new comers seeking a winter habitat and also as the larger, stronger birds try to chase out the weaker ones to ensure that they have less competition for the food and shelter that becomes scarce in the wild as the cold months sets in.

At this time of year you can help by putting up extra feeders and nesting boxes to allow an extra few birds to winter over in your yard. This is particularly important if you are living in one of New Zealand's larger towns or cities because if the local wild birds cannot find the winter habitat they require locally they will be forced to travel long distances and then fight the current local birds to find a safe winter home.

When we started Backyard Birds our vision was to encourage people to provide the habitat that would encourage wild birds to come back into the cities that were fast becoming hard places for the birds to survive in. This has worked beyond our wildest dreams and the amount of people now feeding wild birds in New Zealand has grown incredibly. We are constantly receiving feedback telling us about different species of birds becoming established in areas where they haven't been seen for years or even in living memory. Unfortunately as the bird numbers at our feeders increase there is also an increasing need to provide the rest of the required habitat in the form of places to drink, shelter and nesting sites.

We are really excited about the number of people that are now putting up nest boxes and also the feedback we are getting from them. We encourage people to put up several boxes in different locations around their yards because you wont always get it right and what seems like an ideal location to us may not meet with the same enthusiasm from your local birds. So increasing the number of boxes will increase the chances of some of them being acceptable to the birds, and if you manage to site them all in good locations so that they all have new tenants that cant be a bad thing either. 


This year Mothers Day falls on Sunday 8th of May.
Last year our  most popular Mothers Day Gifts were our Window Bird Feeders and our Teacup Bird Feeders, for three years running.

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 8 2016



Owl Cottage is a house and small plot of land in Dunedin New Zealand which has been carefully non cultivated over the past 15 years to be as natural and wild, beautiful, chemical free and inviting to birds, insects as possible.

Every  autumn and winter  we put out food for the native birds that come down from  the bush up in the hills above our house. Most native birds are nectar or insect  feeders, and so we feed them sugar water from a big feeder hung in  the small trees at the back of the house- mainly high enough  from Tilly the cat!

In the middle of winter the birds can drink up to  2 litres of sugar water a day. We also put old bread out  for the non-native seed feeders like the sparrows and the blackbirds and thrushes and sometimes starlings. However everyone seems to like the apples that we peel and then spear on sharpened branches from the old sweetheart rose that grows wildly over the back  verandah roof!

Sometimes when a horde of waxeyes descend on fruit and water the arguments can be fierce! Blackbirds hold sway over most of the other birds, but sometimes an older bellbird, and always the rare tui, will outrank a blackbird!  Very occasionally we might see a brilliantly coloured Australian  parakeet that live in a small group up in the high trees in the hills, who comes  desperate for food in mid-winter.

Up until a few years ago we would see a constant parade of mallard and grey ducks who would first land on our laundry roof and then lower themselves with a loud flutter of wings and quacking, to the back garden area to  voraciously consume the bread there, and waggle their tails in triumph and greed. Sadly for no reason known to us , the ducks no longer frequent our little  paradise or bring their little ducklings marching up the front hall if we left the front door open!

Because we have so many native birds in the back garden they also excrete the seeds from the native fruit they have eaten in  the bush, and little native seedlings sprout up below the feeders and in shady patches in the back yard.

It seemed a shame to waste these precious gifts, so I began uprooting them from their homes between the bricks or in  the gravel, and putting them safely in pots. The pot entourage grew! The plastic pots came from the potted plants  we bought cheap at fairs and plant nursery bargain counters,  and the potting mix came from the beautiful  fine loam created by  well rotted walnut leaves. And so the nursery was born!

The birds in their travels throughout the bush in  the hills above our home , bring us kanono seed, makamako, a few kowhai, tree fuschia and many lemonwood, with a few more exotic species from time to time.

The vision is to spread more native plants, uniquely adapted to our Dunedin weather and soil, throughout the city to create corridors of food for the native birds that fly between the ever-dwindling patches of native bush around our city, and to provide homes in the soil for the myriad of insects and other native species that used to inhabit this part of the world before the Europeans brought their environmental destruction and European plants.

visit Owl Cottage Website >>>



Wild Birds and the Rest Home Residents

Judging by the amount of bird feeders we sell to residents of rest homes and retirement villages we always knew that these people enjoyed feeding the local wild birds but we never realized just how much they benefited from this hobby until Susan Oliver launched her Wild Bird Programme in six New Plymouth rest home/retirement villages last winter.

Backyard Birds have been associated with this programme from its inception and we have watched with interest as the results became apparent. 

 Rochelle Norton, diversional therapist at Molly Ryan on New Plymouth's Mangorei Rd describes the outdoor action last winter as a "story unfolding in front of them [the residents].
The wax eye and the sparrows would come and go, and pair up, and then leave."

There would be chatter with visiting family about birds, attempts to identify unusual species, even the odd drama. Bully birds of the neighbourhood – the minors – were lead by one strident creature, then one day he was found dead on a bird table.

Bird eating habits became conversational starters: Would the wax eyes consume the banana before the kiwifruit, bother with the apples? "We started putting fruit on the bird tables. They demolished the kiwifruit and the bananas, the oranges were a bit hit and miss, they didn't like the grapes and they only ate certain apples, the sweeter red-skinned ones."

 Diversional therapist Lynette Dombroski at Mairire rest home said "They actually turn their chairs around now to watch outside - they're fascinated by the way the birds just flock.
"It's the activity, the joy of sitting there and watching and that all enhances their quality of life."

More Information >>>>


Bringing Birds Closer

We have had several enquiries lately about how to bring the local wild birds closer to the house so that people can enjoy watching the birds feeding at close range.
If you have a large section it is quite easy to set up a feeder some distance from the house and main traffic areas that will attract birds immediately. In smaller yards it is harder as the local wild birds are often wary about approaching feeders when they are located near human activity.

The best way to introduce any feeder to your birds is to locate it as far away from your house and human activity as possible. This may often be at the back of your house in an area where you don't visit often and so you will not be able to watch the birds feeding. Don't worry  because this is only a temporary location until the birds get used to the feeder and learn that they are relatively safe visiting it.

As soon as the birds are comfortable with the new feeder you can start moving it by a few metres every few days until it is outside your lounge window or mounted on your deck where you want it.

Ideally your feeder should be located to one side of your window, not directly in front of it. This way you will be able to observe the birds without them be able to see into the room and be unsettled by every movement.

Attracting Birds With Hanging Baskets

One way of bringing birds closer is to locate bird friendly plants as close as possible to your house.
An ideal way to do this, especially if you have limited space, is the use of hanging plants.

While not every plant suitable for hanging baskets will attract your local wild birds to feed, most of them will attract birds for one reason or another. At the very least, the plant material inside a hanging basket, and even the fibrous basket itself will be used as nesting material. The baskets will also harbour bugs that birds love to eat.
Some wild birds are very wary about feeding on the ground, particularly if there is a resident cat in your yard, so for these hanging baskets are ideal.

One plant that is suitable for hanging baskets, is attractive and will defiantly attract the birds is Fuchsia Procumbens (Creeping Fuchsia). 
This plant also makes an attractive groundcover with round bright green leaves and red and yellow flowers in Summer, followed by large red berries that the local birds will love.

 Planted in a hanging basket - it is a wonderful sight with red berries hanging down  It is deciduous in colder areas in Winter and prefers semi-shade - Frost tender.


  1. Zealandia Sanctuary


 Recently, while visiting Wellington, we went to the Zealandia Sanctuary.
We had heard really good things about this eco-sanctuary, only 2km from down town Wellington, from some of our customers but we still weren't expecting to have such a fantastic experience.
 In 1999 the people at Zealandia built an 8.6km, 2.2metre high predator proof fence that completely enclosed the Karori Reservoir valley. After they trapped and killed all predators within the valley they introduced several species of birds that are normally only found on off shore Islands.
Because there seems to be so many of them, these birds aren't hard to spot. We saw several endangered and rare birds such as Hihi (Stitchback), Tieke (Saddleback), Kakairki (Red Crowned Parakeet), as well as a pair of Takahe which were one of the highlights for us.


Takahe (thought to be extinct until rediscovered in 1948 in a remote Fiordland valley)


A pair of Kaka which were reintroduced in 2002 after being extinct in Wellington for nearly 100 years. These birds are now becoming a common sight in several Wellington suburbs.


A North Island Robin. These were released in 2001 and appear to be quite numerous. As you walk down a track they will follow you and eat the bugs in the disturbed leaf litter. We had several come and sit on the toes of our shoes.


Another highlight for us was seeing the numerous Tuatara basking in the sun alongside the track. These were extinct from the mainland since the late 1700s until they were released into Zealandia in 2005 A total of 200 have been transferred and have been breeding since 2007.

We originally planned on spending 2 or 3 hours at Zealandia but were so enthralled by what we saw we actually ended up spending two days walking around the 32km of tracks.
Many of these tracks are very easy going and are described as  wheelchair and buggy friendly.
The popular ‘red’ loop track takes around 1.5 hours and showcases the best of the valley’s nature and conservation highlights. All the birds and the Tuataras mentioned were seen on this track.

Zealandia relies heavily on volunteers to maintain its tracks, fill the bird feeders, gardening etc. We met quite a few on our walk through the sanctuary and they all seemed to be enjoying themselves The Wednesday Gardening Group we came across seemed to be a very social occasion. They are always looking for new people so if you live in Wellington and can donate a few hours a month, they would love to hear from you.   

Zealandia Website >>>

Question and Answer Section

Q.  Hi there,
I have been trying to get Tui to feed at home. I have attached a photo of where our bird feeder (purchased from you guys)
 I have made your recipe with the red food dye and all! Still no action 5 weeks later.

Please help, I have a backyard bird feeder that the small birds use all the time, but alas....... No Tui! There are Tui around but not in my yard! :)
Do you have any magic ideas? Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you Jen

A. Hi Jen,
I'm sorry to hear you aren't having any luck with your local Tuis but don't despair because I have never heard about a customer that hasn't succeeded in the end. I have seen many feeders situated in identical locations to yours that are working fantastically well.

It could be that at the moment your Tuis have all the food they need so aren't looking for any alternative food sources but if so that can change quickly.
Have the waxeyes found the feeder yet? normally they will be your first visitors and the Tuis will come after they notice the waxeyes feeding.
Take a look the article on our site which has some suggestions which could help.
Until the Tuis find the feeder it is best if you keep the bottle with the syrup in the fridge and just half fill the bowl with fresh syrup every day to stop it from spoiling in the heat.
Good luck and please let us know how you get on

Q. Keith
I have a question you might be able to answer.
I would love to get a bird feeder [ preferably one for Tuis] for my sons new home in Grey Lynn. However they have a cat, who has recently taken to climbing the few tall trees they have in their back yard.
What could you recommend that would prevent the cat [ even if it was interested] from getting to the birds.
 Many thanks Linda

A. Hi Linda
If you are after a Tui Feeder then the best way is to mount it on a pole as shown in the photo

 If you are using a wooden pole you might have to wrap some metal around it to prevent the cats from digging their claws into the timber as they climb
Using a pole has the added advantage of being able to locate the feeder in a quite part of the garden while the Tuis are getting use to it and then be able to move it (2 - 3 metres every few days) until it is located exactly where you want it e.g. outside the lounge window. I hope this helps


Photo of the Month

Photo by Julia Czerwonatis

"We were having a picnic in the grounds of the Whangarei Museum when this friendly Mynah joined us. Imagine our surprise when he started talking to us saying "come on , come on".
We followed him to the Bird Recovery Centre where we were told that he had been hand reared and flies free all day but always returns to the centre at night to be locked into his cage"

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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