Five ways to bring native wildlife into your gardenon
New Zealand wildlife is more mild than wild. Our native creatures need some encouragement to overcome their shyness and mingle with us human types. But the effort to lure native wildlife into your garden is worth it. The sound of birdsong in the morning is one of Mother Nature’s greatest gifts, while small critters like lizards and native bees will appreciate a place where they feel safe. With that in mind, here are five ways to bring native wildlife into your garden.
PLANT WITH BIRDS IN MIND
Native birds love native plants for food, shelter and nesting. For example, tuis enjoy playing in kowhai and flax, and feeding on the nectar these plants produce. Meanwhile, other birds prefer fruit to nectar: korokia and karamu plants, and their berries, will attract kereru and bellbirds. As most birds eat insects, don’t be too quick to rake up the leaves that fall from these trees. Leaf litter will attract insects which, in turn, will attract native birds.
FEED OUR FEATHERED FRIENDS
Sometimes you can give nature a helping hand when it comes to providing a food source for native birds. Nectar is in short supply in winter so you can do your bit by making a sugar-water formula; half a cup of sugar in four cups of water will do the trick. Place it in a shallow dish and watch nectar-loving birds like tui and bellbirds flock to your place. Knowing they have a reliable and safe food source in your garden will keep them coming back.
PROTECT THEM FROM PETS AND PESTS
Any visiting creature runs the risk of encountering other creatures that call your place home, namely cats and rats. Rats reside at virtually every suburban property; they come out at night or hide in thick foliage during the day, ready to attack any nest they come across. A trapping program is called for! Predator Free New Zealand has some excellent advice on their website about trapping rats, possums and stoats. Meanwhile, try and keep your cat inside as much as possible, especially at night, and ensure any feeding station you set up for birds is at a height your moggie can’t reach.
CREATE A SAFE HAVEN FOR LIZARDS AND BEES
Native lizards, such as skinks, can feel right at home in your garden if you create a safe haven for them. This might consist of low-growing and dense plants like coprosmas or muehlenbeckia, as well as rocks, dry stone walls and concrete slabs where lizards can hide from backyard predators like cats, rats and mice.
New Zealand’s 28 species of native bees could also do with a helping hand as they pollinate our most beloved native plants, including pohutukawa and manuka. Obviously, these plants will bring bees to your garden as they seek reliable food sources. As they’re not great travellers, the bees will stay within close proximity of your place once they know they’re being so well looked after.
TALK TO LOCAL EXPERTS
The best way to attract native wildlife to your garden is to know what sort of wildlife you’re going to attract in the first place! For example, if you live in the wide-open spaces of Canterbury, and you want to plant lots of nectar-rich plants to attract tui, well… you might be disappointed.
Tui are rare in the Canterbury region, and this is one reason to get in touch with your nearest Department of Conservation or Forest and Bird organisation. They’ll tell you what sort of bird and animal life exists in your region; they’ll also tell you what grows best in your neck of the woods. With information like this, you can work out a strategy to attract native wildlife to your garden and make your backyard a genuine slice of Kiwiana paradise.