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


        Winter - 2013

Providing Winter Food and Shelter
So far this winter is proving to be very hard for the New Zealand wild birds. In many parts of the country we have had cold, wet, and extremely windy weather.
This wind makes it even harder for the birds to survive the winter because it prevents them being able to leave their shelters to search for what little food is available. During these windy spells we have noticed that nearly all our nesting boxes are occupied with birds using them for shelter. Hopefully many will return in spring to use them for nesting.
This winter we are feeding out more high energy food and suet cakes, which the birds seem to really appreciate. This food need not cost you much money. We put out fat trimmings which the local butcher saves for us , and also make a high energy bread slice by dipping them into a pan of melted dripping and then letting them harden. Covering these with birdseed makes a really special treat for the wild birds.

Other good foods for your wild birds at this time of year are:

* Strings of popcorn and/or dried fruit (thread onto cotton using a sewing needle)
* Whole fruit such as apples and pears
* Sunflower seeds
* Cooked rice, brown or white (without salt added)
* Suet balls and cakes
* Small muffins, biscuits and pieces of fruit cake crumbled or left whole
* Mild grated cheese
* Dry porridge oats
* Potato (jacket, boiled, roast and even mashed potatoes are suitable but only saturated fats should be used as margarines and other soft fats do not provide the high energy needed and can cause problems if they get onto a birds feathers)
* Tinned pet food - Meaty tinned dog and cat food form an acceptable substitute to earthworms when worms are unavailable. Blackbirds readily take dog food, and even feed it to their chicks.

 Note that fat from cooking is bad for birds. The problem with cooked fat from roasting tins and dishes is that the meat juices have blended with the fat and when allowed to set, this consistency makes it prone to smearing, not good for birds' feathers. It is a breeding ground for bacteria, so potentially bad for birds' health.
 Many moulds are harmless, but some can cause respiratory infections in birds, and so it is best to be cautious and avoid mouldy food entirely. If food turns mouldy or stale on your bird table, you are probably placing out too large a quantity for the birds to eat in one day. Always remove any stale or mouldy food promptly.



Have you seen this bird?

This bird is the Red Vented Bulbul and The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is calling for public support to track them down.
MPI response manager Jaap Knegtmans says the ministry is concerned a population may become established in Auckland and threaten horticultural and native vegetation and local birds.

"The red-vented bulbul is aggressive to other birds and is regarded as one of the world's most invasive bird species," he says.

While the red-vented bulbuls may appear cute, they're anything but, and urgent action is required to locate and capture them before they become established, Knegtmans says.

"We'd like to hear from members of the public who believe they've seen these birds and the sooner we can hear about a potential sighting, the better," Knegtmans says.

Red-vented bulbuls are a medium-sized bird about the size of a starling (20 centimetres in length – body and tail). They are generally dark coloured with a lighter chest and rump, a small crest on their head, and significantly, a very distinctive crimson-red patch beneath their tail.

"This red patch is the key identification feature. If people have seen a bird with these bright red feathers beneath the tail, we urge them to contact MPI on its free exotic pest and disease hotline – 0800 80 99 66. Taking a photo, if possible, would also be a huge help."

For further information about these birds and also to hear a recording of their distinctive call visit

This new bird site is a partnership between Te Papa, DOC, and The Ornithological Society of New Zealand.

It has an easy 3-step method that allows you to identify any new  birds you see at your feeders or in your garden.
By clicking on "Identify that bird" you then select the location you spotted the bird e.g.. "urban park or garden", "farmland or horticultural block" etc. The viewer is then shown a variety of bird photos, from which you select the one closest in appearance to one you have seen. In the final step you are shown all the possible birds that your one could be. Clicking on a photo takes you to a page of detailed information, photos and links to further information about that bird.

This site is well worth a visit from those trying to identify a bird in their New Zealand garden, or simply gain more information on a particular bird.

Question and Answer Section

Q. "I purchased a window bird feeder for my grandparents last year and they love it.  However other people in their complex have decided that the bird/bird seed makes too much mess under the feeder and it can be seen by them! 
Do you have any recommendations on the best feed to prevent mess?"
I know this can be a real problem but the solution is quite simple.
First use a really good bird seed because the birds will throw out less when they are sorting through it to find their favorite seeds. Many wild bird seeds sold in supermarkets etc contain a high percentage of "filler seeds" to make up the bulk cheaply.

The second trick is to heat bird seeds in the microwave for a few minutes and let cool before filling up the bird feeders. The heat will sterilise the seeds and prevent them from germinating if they fall on the ground and the micro waved seeds taste the same to the birds and won’t harm them in any way. For each 500g of bird seed, microwave for two minutes on high power.

Q. "How do I attract Tuis to my feeder?
 My friend has one of your Tui Feeders and has Tuis feeding from it all day long but when I purchased one and installed it in my garden, I have had no visitors at all. It has been up for 3 weeks now"
All nectar feeding birds are attracted to the colour red, because most of their food sources are this colour. This is why we recommend that you use red food colouring in your syrup, but we have heard of people having GREAT success using a few drops of raspberry cordial (See Mikes Story)
Many people also tie red ribbons to their feeders and we know of one person who uses plastic flowers from a $2 shop with good success.
One customer has several of our feeders in a large patch of bush and paints them bright red with good results.
Be sure to keep your feeder bowl clean and free from dead insects etc because Tuis are exceptionally fussy when it comes to cleanliness.

Urban Birds Build Nests With Cigarette Butts

It appears that urban birds are adapting  to city-dwelling by utilizing discarded cigarette butts, and now scientists have figured out why. In a Mexican study  published in the journal Biology Letters, they revealed that the reason may be to help the birds keep parasites at bay.

In the wild it is not uncommon for birds to bring parasite-deterring plants into their nest which emit certain chemicals, but now they are utilizing a new source of nesting material. In Mexico City, where the study was conducted, the nests of house sparrows and house finches had an average of 10 butts, but some contained up to 48 butts. Tobacco has repellent properties and the nicotine and other chemicals in discarded filters act as a pesticide that repels parasitic mites. Nicotine is in fact a natural defense chemical used by the tobacco plant to ward off plant-eating insects. It has also been used by humans to control parasites in poultry, as well as to protect crops from pests.

The Benefits of Garden Mulch

We are great believers in using leaf litter and other garden mulch to attract wild birds to our garden.
By piling up this garden litter under your shrubs or in a back corner of your garden you are providing an ideal home for worms and insects. Many native birds are not attracted to feeders but insects form a large part of their diet.
The chart below shows some of our insect eating native birds. Several of these such as the Morepork, the Shining Cuckoo, and even the Fantail are becoming increasingly rarer in our New Zealand suburbs, with their tidy gardens.
In suburban areas it is quite common to see Fantails flying around compost bins as these are one of the few places that they can find the small midges and flies that they feed on.
It is really worth the effort of encouraging insects into your backyard when you see the Fantails flying and diving around, or hear the call of a Morepork on a still night.


New Products
We have recently introduced several new products to the site, that are already proving popular. If you haven't looked at our site for awhile please check them out.

Wild Bird Energy Cakes - 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.

Wild Bird Energy Truffles - Wild Bird Energy Truffles contain the highest quality ingredients including vegetable fats, peanut flour and wheat flour. These nutritious balls attract most species of wild bird and can be fed from our Fat Snax Feeders or simply placed on a bird table.

Fat Snak Feeder
Fat Snax Feeders are a great, no-mess way to feed suet balls or High Energy Truffles to the wild birds in your New Zealand garden.

Not only are they a smart, attractive addition to your garden but by using a hanging Fat Snax Feeder you protect the birds from cats while they are feeding and also don't attract mice or rats as you do when bird feed is put directly onto the ground.
They are designed to take either three High Energy Truffles or homemade suet balls. The top flips open to allow for easy filling.

 Suet or High Energy Truffles are great food to offer birds in the winter because this is when their normal food is hard to find and they need a higher calorie intake to keep their bodies warm.
more information >>>>


Easy Suet Recipe

At this time of year the wild birds need all the energy they can get. Below is a simple recipe, that can be made quickly and cheaply.
You can add different ingredients to the mixture before it cools can make it even more attractive to birds eg. Chopped, unsalted nuts, Dried fruit bits, Birdseed, Honey, Broken Biscuits

 Easy suet recipe:

  • 1 Cup Dripping
  • 1 Cup chunky peanut butter
  • 3 Cups ground cornmeal
  • 1/2 Cup white or wheat flour

Melt the suet and peanut butter together until they are smooth and liquid. Add the cornmeal and flour, mixing well.
Allow the mixture to cool slightly to thicken, then pour it into molds or containers to use.
Refrigerate or freeze suet until it is firm and you are ready to use it.

Bird pudding

The birds in your garden will love this tasty snack.

1-2 cups of fat
Stale bread or biscuits or bird seed
Bacon rinds

1. Place the fat, honey and bacon scraps in a bowl.
2. Stand the bowl in hot water.
3. When the fat begins to melt add the bread, biscuits or bird seed.
4. Stir the mixture and form into a ball.
5. Press into a small container and leave to cool and set.
6. Tip out into a net bag (the sort you buy mandarins or onions in is good)
7. Hang the bird pudding near your bird table for birds to eat.



Photo of the Month

We love receiving photos from our customers and have decided to include the best ones in each newsletter, so please send us your photos.
Although we are sent many photos from our customers, this is the very first one of a Bellbird at one of our feeders.
This one was taken by Jane Smith who emailed "
Hi Keith,
Only sparrows at the window feeder. Tuis, bellbirds and waxeyes at the syrup one, but I haven't snapped a tui yet."
Regards, Jane


NZ Backyard Birds


Tui Feeders

Seed Feeders

Bird Feeders

Nesting Boxes

Contact Us

NZ Backyard Birds
09 4331728
Email -