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Bird friendly gardens

photo source: Wellington bird photographer & graphic artist

Wellingtonians are a bit bird crazy ~ we love our feathered friends!


Wellington is a hub for regenerating bird life. Zealandia ecosanctuary is in the heart of our capital city with its predator proof fence and halo effect for birds to venture out into surrounding suburbs. Predator Free was also started in Wellington; and phase 1 Miramar Peninsula is now officially rat, stoat & weasel free. And the impact is visible & audible!  A generation ago it was rare to see tui in the city; and now kaka are successfully breeding Wellington’s western suburbs for the first time in a century. Predators have reduced to safe enough levels to return kiwis to the wilds of the southwestern hills, and the first chicks in 150 years have been born in the wild. Capital Kiwi’s vision is to have kiwi wandering beneath the Brooklyn wind turbine and on Mt Kaukau. “We want the residents of Wellington’s western suburbs, from the south coast and rural valleys, stretching from Red Rocks to Porirua, falling asleep to the sound of kiwi”.

Predator Free Wellington.jpg

Phase 1 of Predator Free Wellington is complete. Phase 2 (Island Bay to the CBD) is underway. Predator 2050 is an extraordinary goal and a long term programme underway at the same time across NZ Aoteroa. Source:

There are lots of ways we can support these efforts and encourage our precious bird life – starting with our own backyards!

Trees for birdlife.jpg

Here are some trees in one of our customer's gardens in the heart of Wellington city: 30m tall eucalyptus for safety, nesting & travel; tui love kowhai & cabbage trees planted for their flowers and nectar; bottlebrushes attract insects & pollinators; and crabapples fruit in autumn- winter. If you want to see more of this garden, click here Majoribanks Gallery

Here are a few things you can do for birds in your garden:


Plant a wide range of seasonal food sources

Different birds prefer different plants, and even different parts of plants, aswell as insects; and they need year round food sources in the form of nectar, sap, pollen, fruit, berries, seeds, and insects.

For example:

* Pīwakwaka fantails eat insects

* Tūī eat nectar, fruit and insects

* Kererū eat flowers, fruit & foliage

* Kākā eat nectar, fruit, seeds, insects and sap.


I find it a bit hard to get my head around who eats what and when; so I take a bit more of a general approach and suggest planting a wide variety of plants, with lots of seasonal interest at different times of the year.

All plants follow an annual life cycle of - flowering – then fruit/berries – then seed. So if you can select plants that flower in different seasons, then their fruit, berries & seed heads will also follow at different times of the year.


Then, be sure to let the plant follow its seasonal life cycle. At the end of summer, don’t cut the flowers off all your plants. Allow them to dry out so the seeds can ripen and provide food for birds during the autumn. Keep grass seed heads on into winter etc.

To get you started, here are some firm favourite bird friendly plants: flax, kōwhai, cabbage trees, and pūriri. Pūriri, Vitex lucens is a tree that can flower year round, and most heavily in winter, and it is therefore an excellent and constant year round food source. It's also a good idea in my humble opinion to plant non natives too, especially to support birds and insects at lean feeding times throughout the year.


Encourage & protect insects

As well as plants, many birds eat a wide range of insects including spiders, moths, beetles, and earthworms. Here are some ways to encourage a wide range of insect life in your garden:

  • Plant insect friendly plants & pollinators. Bees like big petals and landing pads, and multi floriferous plants, and blue flowers.

  • Mulch your garden and return leaf litter back onto on your garden for insects & worms.

  • Create insect hotels - safe & dry nooks and crannies out off stones, bricks, and logs.

  • Minimise your use of insecticides. It's good to have a range of insects in your garden, rather than cutting out a food group + we don’t want insectides entering the food chain.

Bird safety

  • Plant & protect trees, which are used by birds for nesting & travel around suburbs, moving between habitats and food sources. Exotics trees can play an important role here too, as many of our native trees are very slow growing. 

  • Grow low growing & ground covers food sources like Fuchsia procumbens in a hanging baskets in trees.

  • Place/hang water high in a safe place off the ground for bathing & drinking.

  • Don’t plant favourite plants too close to windows – reflections can confuse birds and they fly into panes.

  • Trap predators like rats and possums. Predator Free provides free traps and advice on best practices, where to place traps, best bait to use etc

  • Keep rats out of your compost & rat proof your compost.

  • Install cat rollers around fence lines to confine them to a safe area; and think about keeping cats in at night, which is their main hunting time. 

  • Keep dogs on a lead when walking in the bush. Capital Kiwi also provides free dog training sessions.


Bird Wire links - bird news on Instagram


There is lots of news and resources out there, which we follow with great interest. We are proud supporters of Zealandia, Predator Free Wellington & Capital Kiwi. Links to Instagram pages below.

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