Native birds are a wonderful, highly visible component of native gardens; their varied and often beautiful song, striking plumage and interesting acrobatics add to any landscape. Over 270 bird species have been recorded in the Adelaide region, of which 16 are introduced and 76 have conservation significance (meaning they are rare, endangered or threatened).
Factors such as urban development have either restricted or limited the natural range of many birds originally found in the Adelaide region. Adelaide was, and still is home to a wide variety of birds that include owls, spoonbills, falcons and button-quails. These species are still around but your chance of seeing on e is becoming increasingly less likely. More typical birds of the Adelaide parks and suburbs include the Australian Magpie and Lorikeets. By providing the correct habitat requirements for local birds you will be rewarded with their presence and will be helping to play an important role in the conservation of Adelaide’s diminishing native bird life.
Many factors jeopardise Adelaide’s native bird populations. Birds, like other native wildlife, are facing increased pressure due to clearance and alteration of remnant vegetation, higher density housing, predation by cats and competition from introduced species.
Land clearance has resulted in the loss and fragmentation of native vegetation and is the primary threat to native fauna. The decline of approximately two-thirds of all threatened Australian birds is predominately attributed to habitat loss and fragmentation as a result of vegetation clearance. This results in reduced availability of resources, and increased populations of exotic birds that prosper in response to altered conditions. Birds such as the Noisy Miner deter smaller, less aggressive native birds. Species such as the Noisy Miner’s are a native species but have come to dominate many areas due to their suitability to altered conditions with more open spaces and little or no understorey.
Water is an essential element and will encourage birds to visit your garden, especially during the warmer months when water is scarce. Water can be incorporated through a pond or birdbath. In both instances it should be elevated and situated close to shrubs and trees so they feel safe and are able to seek shelter from predators. Ensure the water is kept clean and continually there to ensure a reliable source is provided.
Control your domestic pets such as cats that prey on or deter birds from visiting your garden. Constructing an outside run for cats in the garden is safer for both cats and wildlife.
What Should I Plant?
The first step is to select the right native plants that will provide habitat for local birds. Each species is unique in terms of the habitat it requires to survive, and the plants you select should reflect this. Planting locally native species will encourage local birds to visit your garden. Ideally, your garden should include the following:
- A variety of plants with differing structures will ensure that all the habitat requirements are provided. Include thick, prickly shrubs such as Kangaroo thorn (Acacia paradoxa) where birds can nest and seek shelter. Include low, medium and high trees and shrubs that will offer protection from predators and domestic pets.
- At least one very tall tree to act as a survey or lookout point.
- Each bird species has specific diet requirements so it is important to incorporate a wide variety of local native plants that will provide an assortment of food sources. Some birds, such as Honeyeaters eat insects and are also specialist nectar feeders, while others such as Rosellas and Lorikeets feed on nectar and seeds from Eucalyptus trees. Other common food sources include grasses, berries, insects, small lizards, seeds, pollen, fruits and nectar.
- It is a misconception that large amounts of nectar producing plants are needed to attract birds; too many will encourage aggressive birds such as New Holland Honeyeaters and Wattlebirds which deter smaller species such as wrens.
Local natives provide an important source of food. This is especially true in winter when many introduced species are dormant or do not bear food for native animals. Native plants often provide an important source of food during this time when other food is scarce.
Home in a Hollow
Hollows provide important habitat for many native birds for shelter and nesting. It can take up to 60 years for hollows to develop, and the clearance of older and remnant vegetation has led to a missing link in habitat. Bird species such as Eastern Rosellas, Crimson Rosellas, Rainbow Lorikeets and Kookaburras are just a few of the native birds that rely on hollows for breeding.
Do not artificially feed birds. After some time they may become dependent on you as a food source and may starve if feeding ceases. An artificial diet will most likely not provide adequate nutrients. Providing a variety of native plants will provide adequate resources in terms of food and habitat.