How to create a bird-friendly garden

Winter is a great time to attract birds into your garden. Birds can benefit your garden by controlling garden pests such as harmful caterpillars, snails and aphids, as well as provide excellent fertiliser. White-eyes, for example, thrive on the aphids in your garden.

The availability of food, water and superb nesting spots in gardens are great attractions for our feathered friends.

Bring it on: The African yellow white-eye will feed on insects, nectar and fruit.

How do you create a bird-friendly garden? Follow these tips for attracting birds:

If the log is already hollowed out, tie the log to a tree branch, at least 2m off the ground, with the opening pointing towards the ground to avoid rain entering the nest cavity. Place the log in a position where it will be shielded from the midday sun as the heat will prevent birds from using it.

“The most conspicuous group of nectar gatherers are the sunbird family,” says birding author Peter Ginn. “They all have more or less curved beaks that vary in length from the slightly curved short bill of the collared sunbird to the long curved beak of the malachite sunbird. Plants with curved flowers will therefore be most attractive to this group – especially as other birds usually cannot access the nectar as their beaks are too short and not curved. Obviously, the more nectar a plant produces, the more attractive it will be to birds,” he says.

“Aloes are the best indigenous plants with curved flowers. There are so many varieties that it is possible to have one or other variety flowering in a large garden throughout the year. One of the most popular bird-friendly varieties is the krantz aloe (Aloe arborescens),” he says.

The Cape honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis) and tree fuchsia (Halleria lucida) are also excellent creators of nectar. “The original orange Cape honeysuckle form seems to be the best nectar producer, although other dark varieties are also attractive,” says Ginn.

The tree fuchsia is sensitive to extreme heat, so should not be placed in the open in hot areas. The greenish-white or pale orange flowers of the tree fuchsia attract sunbirds, while the masses of small fruits attract white-eyes, bulbuls, thrushes and many others.

“In urban areas these trees attract every fruit-eating bird from blocks around,” says Ginn.

“The most unlikely looking candidate for a bird-attracting plant is the lion's ear or wild dagga (Leonotis leonurus),” says Ginn. It needs to be pruned regularly if it is to bear lots of flowers. The flowers of the lion’s ear are prized by long-billed sunbirds, probably because the long tubes are too long for the short-billed species. - Saturday Star