Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Plant Selection Key to Encouraging Birdlife

Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Plant Selection Key to Encouraging Birdlife

Article excerpt

THERE is no doubt that one of the best ways to wake in the morning is to the soft song of the birds that frequent our backyard in all seasons, rather than the synthesized sounds of my mobile phone alarm (or for that matter, the barking of a next door dog!)

Over the last few months, about a half hour before dawn, the wonderfully musical call of the brown honeyeater was our signal to rouse from our slumber.

Plik, plik, plik! Lately, the brown honeyeater has happily traded places with the superb blue wren, whose dainty melody is just about the most magical of bird song.

From dawn onwards, the larger birds enter the fray, with visits from many and varied to drink from our secluded frog pond, snap up some of the many insects around our eclectic collection of ornamental and productive plants, sip nectar from deep-throated flowers, or to simply chew and destroy other nectar-laden blooms, the latter for those whose beaks aren't adapted for dainty table manners.

At some stage in the future, once I've compiled a reasonable list, I'll dedicate at least a couple of these articles to the many species of birds we see in the suburbs each day, as there's no doubt that most, if not all, contribute in some way to helping us achieve some semblance of natural balance in our gardens.

Most importantly, it's timely to discuss the ways in which we can attract birds to visit our gardens, and in some cases, encourage them to set up home.

So what do birds need in order to be coaxed into a garden?

Essentially, they have the same requirements as we have, that is, the need for food, water, and shelter with security.

A handy source of food will be the primary reason for which birds will visit a garden.

Most probably the easiest avian menu item we can supply in an "all natural" form is flower nectar, and by far the simplest way to have this on tap is to grow plants that bear a large number of nectar-laden flowers throughout the year.

We're extremely fortunate that one family of Australian plants is by far the best group of nectar producers we can grow, and better still, a huge range of these plants are available in our local garden centres.

I'm speaking, of course, of the Proteaceae family, which contains Grevilleas, Banksias, Waratahs, Hakeas, Stenocarpus (Firewheel Tree), and Buckinghamia (Ivory Curl tree). In just Grevilleas and Banksias combined, there are over 500 species of plants from which to choose, with easily a couple of hundred Grevillea cultivars added to the list as well. Proven bird-attracting plants from this family are Grevillea 'Elegance', 'Honeyeater Heaven', 'Honey Gem', 'Flamingo', 'Ned Kelly', 'Poorinda Constance' (also great a shelter plant), 'Superb', G. intricata, and 'Little Robyn'.

This selection of plants is of various sizes and shapes, so do some research to ensure they will fit the space you have for planting. …

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