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


        Spring - 2013

Spring is Here Again
Its easy to understand why we feed birds through the winter, food is scarce and the wild birds need help to get through this harsh period.
When spring arrives with its warmer temperatures and spring growth many people think that the birds hard times are over and they can stop feeding them, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The wild birds come into spring with low body reserves after their hard winter but over the next couple of months they have lots of tasks ahead of them. They must stake out and lay claim to a breeding territory, undertake mating practices, build a bird nest and care for baby birds.
At this time their food sources are not as plentiful as you may think. Most grasses and plants will not seed until summer, fruit has not yet appeared on the trees, and the high protein insects that many birds rely on for a big part of their diet are still very scarce.
Although wild birds find it really hard at this time of year in a natural environment, they find it even harder in the towns and cities where the grass is kept short so there are no seed heads, concrete and buildings cover a large portion of the ground decreasing the area to find insects in, and native trees with berries and nectar are in short supply.

 As a backyard bird feeder you can help by not only feeding wild birds in the spring, but also supplying them with places and materials to nest, and raise their young. You will be rewarded with the chance to observe all the interesting behaviors and interactions between the wild birds Not only will you have the joy of watching wild birds, but you will be helping them with baby bird care and raising their young through the fledging stage.

If wild birds find a well-stocked and well-prepared backyard area, many will come and stay throughout the year.



Spring Feeding Ideas
The more home comforts you can provide for your backyard visitors, the greater number and variety you will attract.

  • Provide More Feeders - To accommodate the extra numbers you will be catering for, it is a good idea to provide extra feeders. This  prevents overcrowding, which leads to bullying and the smaller, weaker birds not getting their share. Many birds can become very territorial at this time, and prevent other birds from using a feeder. Tuis are one of the main culprits.
     Less birds using a feeder will also help to prevent the spread of any sickness, and the spread of germs.
    By using different feeders you will be able to attract a wider range of species, as different birds are attracted to different feeders, and the food that is offered in them. 
    The ultimate feeder collection to have in your backyard would be a table or platform feeder, a seed feeder, a syrup feeder, and a suet feeder. This selection of feeders will attract and feed most NZ wild birds.

    Seed Bells and  Coconut Feeders are a fast, inexpensive way of providing feeders for the smaller birds over this busy period.

  • Provide Water - In suburban areas it can only take a few dry days before the birds water sources disappear. Once the gutters and puddles dry up there are very few sources of water left. To attract and keep wild birds in your garden you must offer them a place where they can drink, and more importantly bathe to control their parasites. Keep the water fresh, remember that these are wild birds and they like their water and food fresh.
    The bird bath needs to be shallow, with sloping sides so that the birds can walk in to it, remember that in most urban areas the birds use puddles to drink from and bathe in so it doesn't have to be deep.

  • Provide Moist Mulch - This is probably the easiest way of attracting wild birds to your backyard. By leaving a layer of leafy mulch under your shrubs and keeping it moist you will encourage worms. Many ground feeding wild birds will be attracted by the prospect of an easy meal.

  • Nesting boxes will not only invite the birds to make a permanent home in you backyard but also provide shelter from those spring storms that are common in New Zealand.
    If you are worried about your, or your neighbours cat being able to get at the young birds then use a 50mm x 25mm batten to lift the nesting box out of reach.  Simply screw or nail one end to a fence post and attach the other end to the back of the box. We use this method to lift our boxes a metre above the fence.

  • Provide Nesting Materials -Offering materials that birds can use to build nest is just one more way for you to attract more bird activity to your backyard. Unfortunately for urban wild birds, most of us are so house proud that there is very little nest building materials available in our yards.
    Most common backyard birds choose dried grasses in their nest construction. When mowing lawns, allow some of the cut grass to lay on the ground for the birds to pick up and use in their nest.
    Other useful materials include:

    • Twigs or sticks

    • Dead leaves

    • Grass clippings or dead grass

    • Yarn, string or thread

    • Human or pet hair (funnily enough birds particularly like cats hair)

    • Feathers

    • Moss or lichen

    • Pine needles

    • Spider web silk

    • Straw or other plant stems

    • Shredded paper

    • Cotton balls

      More information >>>>

  • Clean Feeders - In spring with the increase in bird numbers using your feeders, and the warmer weather it is important to keep your feeders clean. The most obvious reason to clean bird feeders is to keep your backyard flock healthy. Having so many birds feeding in such a small area is an unusual occurrence in the wild and so wild birds have not developed a strong immunity to diseases.
    Dirty feeders can harbour mould and bacteria from spoiled seed, faeces or diseased birds that can easily be spread to other birds in the communal feeding area. Cleaning bird feeders is an easy way to avoid spreading diseases among birds.
    You should give your feeder a quick "dry clean" every time the feeders are refilled: scrape out any seed clumps, dump out dried faeces and shake out any excess debris before refilling the feeder. Wet cleanings or washings in appropriate disinfectants can be less frequent if you make sure your feeders are in good condition with every refill.


How to Discourage Bully Birds
 From Your Feeders

You may notice that some birds are keeping other birds away from your bird feeder. Larger, aggressive birds use their size and strength to bully smaller, meek birds and keep them away from the food. For example blackbirds, Starlings, and Thrushes may push away the smaller finches. Or Sparrows, by their sheer number, will eat all the food and push the more timid smaller birds away.
There are several methods you can try to keep the bully birds away from some of your feeders to ensure that all the local wild birds get their fair share.

  • Set up extra feeders. While the competition for one feeder is fierce, the competition drops if there are two or three feeders to choose from. This helps the smaller birds get their fair share.
  • Cover a feeder with chicken mesh that has holes big enough to let the smaller birds in while stopping the larger ones.
    This will work best if you cover a feeder that the birds are already using. If the birds know where the feed is they will be more willing to go through the mesh to feed.
  • Shorten or remove some of the perches of a Tube Feeder.
    If the perches are shorter the larger birds wont have enough room to stand on them.
    Bully species usually require a perch to hold onto while eating, but most finches and many other small feeder birds can eat without perching at food ports. Finches can cling to the sides of a tube feeder and eat, or even peck at the seed whilst flying.
  • Hang a Feed Bell for the finches. Finches feed in the wild by clinging to stalks and eating the seed heads, so they are quite at home clinging and eating at the same time while the larger birds need a secure perch.


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 Coconut Feeders
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

Kitset Feeders and Bird Houses
Our Kitset Bird Houses and Kitset Bird Feeders will make fantastic gifts for the budding young builder in your family.
The kitsets come with full, easy to follow instructions, pre-cut timber, nails, screws, sandpaper, and drill bit. All you need is a hammer, drill, and paint if you decide to extend the project and add a coat of paint to it.

These pre-cut wooden kitsets give children a real sense of pride and accomplishment, knowing they have taken some basic materials and constructed a bird feeder or bird house that everyone is sure to admire.
They make an ideal project for children, parents, and grandparents. They are simple enough for an 8 -year-old to tackle alone,  and for younger children with the help of an adult.

The kitsets come pre-cut with nails, ready to assemble. Ideal for ages 8 and up. Hammer and drill required.

Project Island Song is a group of volunteers whose aim is to bring back the native birds to selected islands in the Bay of Islands. They are doing this by pest control and the reintroduction of native animal and plant species.

What we really like about Project Island Song is that you can be part of its success in a practical way, from the comfort of your own home. You can sponsor your very own rat trap.
For just $20 a year you will get

  • 'Bragging' rights relating to all the rats that your trap catches.
  • A certificate with the trap's GPS coordinates
  • Updates of your trap catches 
  • Where possible, photos of the rat your trap has caught

What a perfect gift to buy that someone who has everything :)

Question and Answer Section

Q. "We are continuing to enjoying the tui feeders purchased from you and have many tui (now quite a few pairs) visiting our tui feeder daily, plus bellbirds and wax eyes.
What we also have are increasing numbers of sparrows who have become so confident, they are challenging the tuis when they are feeding and chasing them away. Unbelievable bullying in mass.
Whatever I do, I cannot seem to deter them and they are consuming a lot of sugar water and causing one big mess over our balcony.
Have you any ideas how to deal with this sparrow problem? Perhaps you’ve had other customers who have dealt with it.
I have no idea why they have developed a taste for the sweet water!! Any ideas would be much appreciated." Regards Linda

A. Sparrows can become a real problem once they get a taste for the syrup.
The best option is to put a bit of mesh (with about 25mm holes) over the bowl. This will stop the sparrows but the Tuis, with their long beaks, will still be able to get to the syrup.
Unfortunately it will also stop the Bellbirds and Waxeyes as well. If you experiment a bit and push the mesh into the bowl you may find the right height for it to stop the sparrows but still feed the Bellbirds as well as the Tuis.
If you use the mesh system and also put out water in another part of the garden for the sparrows, in the form of a bird bath or even a Tui feeder with straight water in it, the sparrows should start using that and hopefully forget about the syrup feeder. Once they are "untrained" you can try removing the mesh and hopefully only the Bellbirds and Wax Eyes will return.

 Hi again Keith
After your suggestion I Thought I would share with you our solution to the sparrow problem.

We experimented with a small supermarket deli plastic  container.
We cut slits in the container just under the lid and put plastic ties through, cutting  the straps short. We tried putting different things underneath the container to make sure the bellbirds could still manage it but were surprised the waxeyes could also get into the holes.

The sparrows were quite perplexed because I think they need to dip their head right into the liquid to drink so the mesh prevents them from getting access, even though the liquid is not far below the mesh. 
So the sparrows are slowly giving up and there is a constant stream of tuis, bellbirds and waxeyes .

Thanks again for your help, it was great.
Cheers Linda

Attracting and Feeding Kereru
The Kereru is probably the most important bird we have in New Zealand.
Since the demise of the Moa and Huia, the Kereru is the only New Zealand bird capable of ingesting the large fruit and berries of many native trees of New Zealand and dispersing their seed. The regeneration of many native trees such as miro, puriri, tawa and tairare are totally reliant on the Kereru for their continued existence.

While their numbers are declining in many parts of New Zealand, surveys show that they are increasing in some urban centres, particularly those with well established gardens and effective pest control.

Many people are attracting Kereru to their gardens and feeding them through the lean times when their natural food is scarce. Not only are they helping with the survival of New Zealand's most important bird but they are also having the pleasure of having these fantastic birds at their feeders. Attracting Kereru to your feeders is not easy or fast job but if you feel you have the patience for a real challenge read our article on
Attracting and Feeding Kereru

Know Your NZ Birds
In keeping with this issues Kereru theme, we have devoted this section to describing their appearance and behavior in more detail.
Although most people really enjoy seeing these birds, in their parks and neighbourhoods, not many people know much about them.

Read Article >>>


Photos 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.
This photo was taken by Joanna Hepburn who emailed

"Hello Keith, I fell and broke my elbow when heading out to feed the birds (frost on my deck), so I had to come up with something I could hang or fix for the birds to eat from. I am more able bodied now, but the birds enjoyed the way I was feeding them so I have kept it up.
The Greenfinches, Sparrows, Goldfinches, and Chaffinches all feed from the ladles I have hanging in the trees." 
Cheers, Joanna

This Kereru was photographed in Whangarei by Sue while it was feeding on her Guava bush.


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