New Zealand wood pigeon in tree
Image: Logan Vickers ©

Introduction

Plan your garden so it can provide food and shelter for native wildlife year round.

Supply them with food

Whether you have a large site to restore, or planning a new garden at home, invite the birds over with plants that provide a year round supply of food.

A small garden can still attract birds, especially over winter and spring when tūī, bellbird and kererū (native wood pigeon) will travel considerable distances in search of flowers and fruit

Try to use ecosourced plants (plants that naturally occur in your area). These could include kōwhai, flax, kakabeak, and tarata for nectar; and wineberry, karamū, and korokia for fruit.

Who eats what? - some common species and their diet
SpeciesFruit Foliage Nectar Insects Other
Bellbird X   X X  
Fantail       X  
Grey warbler       X  
Kaka X   X X Seeds and tree sap
Kererū X X     Flowers
Kingfisher        X Lizards, small rodents
Shining cuckoo        X  
Ruru/Morepork       X Small rodents, birds, lizards
Tūī X   X X  
Wax/White/Silvereye X   X X  

If you have limited space for big trees, try growing plants in containers, e.g. titoki, broadleaf and cabbage tree. Some shrubs like kakabeak can even be shaped to fit in with your garden design - but make sure you allow them to flower so the birds benefit.

Keep the birds safe

Plant favourite bird foods like flax and kōwhai where you can see them from inside the house. But avoid planting too close to the house as reflections on windows can confuse birds. A number of kererū are killed every year trying to fly through panes of glass.

Birds such as fantail, grey warbler and silvereye are insect eaters so plant varieties are not as important as a healthy mix of spiders, moths, beetles, and earthworms etc. A good layer of mulch or leaf litter on the garden will encourage insects, and birds are a natural way of keeping them under control. Ruru (morepork) and kingfisher eat insects as well as mice.

Some native birds have become wary about feeding on the ground. Think about growing ground creepers like Fuchsia procumbens in a hanging basket - a wonderful sight with red berries hanging down. Climbing plants like Metrosideros carminea (crimson rata) and Passiflora tetrandra (NZ passionfruit) could grow along a wall or over a pergola.

Stoats, rats, weasels, possums, cats and hedgehogs prey on birds, including their eggs and nestlings. If you want to keep the birds flourishing, controlling pests is a must. Setting traps, and laying poisons (toxins) in bait stations are suitable methods of control.

Habitat requirements

Before planting, check if there is already a reliable food source at the site in terms of fruiting, flowering and seeding trees. The thickness of leaf litter is also a factor for insect-feeding birds and lizards.

Wildlife has different requirements for nesting sites and hiding places. Kingfisher, morepork and longtailed bat, for example, prefer standing dead trees whilst lizards will use fallen logs.

Your site may not be large enough for some species to nest and breed but they may still use it as a seasonal feeding ground. Many areas of native bush and wetlands are now small and widely spaced across the landscape. Your garden may help birds move between these areas.

What to plant

There are many native trees, shrubs and climbers that look attractive in the garden and also provide shelter and food for wildlife. The following is a selection only, and not all will grow in every part of the country.

There are numerous hybrids and cultivars of native plants developed for garden situations. These should not be planted in or near natural bush to avoid cross-pollination.

The advantage of ecosourced plants is that native wildlife has coexisted with them for thousands of years, and has adapted to using them as a food source. Your local plant nursery should be able to advise further.

Botanical name Common name Features
Trees over 6 metres 
Alectryon excelsus titoki red fruit
Carpodetus serratus putaputaweta lilac flower
Cordyline australis ti kouka (cabbage tree) cream flower
Coprosma repens taupata orange/yellow fruit
Griselinia littoralis broadleaf purple fruit
Fuchsia excorticata kotukutuku or konini red flower, black fruit
Knightia excelsa rewarewa red flower
Melicytus ramiflorus mahoe violet fruit
Pennantia corymbosa kaikomako black fruit
Pittosporum eugenioides tarata (lemonwood) yellow flower
Pittosporum tenuifolium kohuhu dark red flowers
Pseudopanax arboreus five finger black fruit
Schefflera digitata pate purple/black fruit
Sophora tetraptera kowhai yellow flower
Vitex lucens puriri red flower
Trees and shrubs
(approx 1.5m to 6m)  
Aristotelia serrata wineberry deep red fruit
Brachyglottis repanda rangiora yellow flower
Coprosma rhamnoides coprosma crimson fruit
Coprosma robusta karamu orange/red fruit
Coprosma grandifolia kanono orange fruit
Cordyline indivisa mountain cabbage tree cream flower
Corokia species korokio orange to red fruit
Leptospermum scoparium manuka white/pink flower
Marcopiper excelsum kawakawa orange fruit
Myrsine australis mapou black fruit
Phormium tenax NZ flax yellow flower
Pittosporum crassifolium karo crimson flower
Pomaderris apetala tainu yellow flower
Pomaderris kumeraho kumerahou yellow flower
Pseudopanax laetus five finger black fruit
Sophora microphylla kowhai yellow flower
Shrubs
(approx 500 mm to 1.5 m)  
Alseuosmia macrophylla toropapa cream to red flower, red fruit
Astelia nervosa astelia orange fruit
Clianthus puniceus kaka beak red flower
Coprosma cheesmanii coprosma orange red fruit
Corokia cotoneaster korokio red fruit
Hebe species hebe flowers various colours
Libertia grandiflora NZ iris orange seed pod
Melicytus micranthus nanakura purple to white fruit
Phormium cookianum dwarf mountain flax yellow flower
Rhabdothamnus solandrii matata yellow to red flower
Low-growing plants
(to 500 mm approx)
Coprosma acerosa & brunnea sand coprosma pale blue fruit
Dianella nigra NZ blueberry blue fruit
Fuchsia procumbens fuchsia red fruit
Hebe species hebe flowers various colours
Libertia ixioides or L.peregrinans NZ iris orange seed pod
Muehlenbeckia axillaris creeping pohuehue white fruit
Parahebe species parahebe white flower
Podocarpus nivalis mountain totara red fruit
Pratia angulata creeping pratia purple/red fruit
Container plants
Alectryon execelsus titoki red fruit
Astelia species   orange fruit
Clianthus species kaka beak red flower
Cordyline australis cabbage tree cream flower
Cordyline indivisa mountain cabbage tree cream flower
Griselinia littoralis broadleaf purple fruit
Phormium species NZ Flax yellow flower
Pittosporum species   yellow to red flowers
Pseudopanax species five finger black fruit
Vitex lucens puriri pink/red flower, red fruit
Climbers
Metrosideros carminea carmine rata crimson flower
Passiflora tetranda kohia orange fruit
Tecomanthe speciosa   cream flower

Monthly calendar of plants for birds

This monthly calendar shows when plants will provide nectar, fruit or seeds for native birds.

Key:
N - Nectar
FS - Fruit and seeds
FSN - Fruit, seeds and nectar

Common nameBotanical name  J  F  M  A  M  J  J  A  S  O  N  D
Akatea Metrosideros fulgens       N   N   N   N    N           
Astelia Astelia nervosa   N FSN  FS   FS  FS               
Cabbage tree Cordyline australis  FS  FS  FS  FS               N   
Fivefinger* Pseudopanax arboreus    FS  FS  FS  FS              
Fivefinger* Pseudopanax laetus    FS  FS  FS  FS              
Flax (mountain) Phormium cookianum   N                   N    N   N
Flax (lowland) Phormium tenax   N                     N   N
Hinau Elaeocarpus dentatus  FS  FS  FS  FS  FS              FS 
Kahikatea Dacrycarpus dacrydiodes      FS  FS  FS              
Kaikomako* Pennantia corymbosa  FS  FS  FS  FS               N    N
Kakabeak Clianthus puniceus                       N   N
Kanono* Coprosma grandifolia    FS  FS  FS  FS              
Karaka*+ Corynocarpus laevigatus    FS  FS  FS                 
Karamu* Coprosma lucida  FS  FS  FS  FS                
Karamu* Coprosma rhamnoides    FS  FS   FS                
Karamu* Coprosma robusta    FS  FS  FS  FS              
Karo Pittosporum crassifolium    FS  FS   FS  FS       N    N    N   N   N
Kawakawa+ Macropiper excelsum  FS   FS                    
Kohekohe+ Dysoxylum spectabile           N   N   N   N        
Kohuhu Pittosporum tenuifolium   N  FS  FS  FS   FS           N   N   N
Kotukutuku* Fuchsia excorticata  FS  FS  FS           N    N   N   N FSN
Korokio Corokia cotoneaster    FS  FS  FS           N   N   N  
Kowhai Sophora microphylla                   N   N   N   
Mahoe*+ Melicytus ramiflorus    FS  FS   FS                
Mapou Myrsine australis      FS  FS  FS  FS  FS  FS  FS  FS    
Miro Prumnopitys ferruginea      FS  FS  FS  FS            
Native broom Carmichalia williamsii   N   N   N                  
Northern rata Metrosideros robusta   N   N   N   N                 N
NZ blueberry Dianella intermedia  FS  FS                  FS   FS
Pate+ Schefflera digitata      FS  FS                
Pigeonwood*+ Hedycarya arborea  FS  FS  FS  FS              FS  FS
Pohutukawa+ Metrosideros excelsa   N    FS  FS  FS             N   N
Puriri+

Vitex
lucens

FSN FSN FSN FSN FSN FSN FSN FSN FSN FSN FSN FSN
Putaputaweta Carpodetus serratus      FS  FS  FS              
Rewarewa Knightia excelsa                   N   N    N   N
Rimu* Dacrydium cupressinum      FS  FS  FS              
Taraire Beilschmiedia taraire        FS  FS              
Tarata* Pittosporum eugenoides      FS  FS  FS           N   N   N
Taupata+ Coprosma repens  FS  FS  FS                  
Tawa Beilschmiedia tawa      FS  FS                
Titoki+ Alectryon excelsus  FS  FS                FS  FS  FS
Toropapa Alseuosmia macrophylla  FS  FS FS   FS         N   N   N FS   FS
Totara Podocarpus totara      FS  FS                
Wharangi+ Melicope ternata    FS  FS                  
Wineberry* Aristotelia serrata  FS  FS  FS                  

*     Species for which several individuals may have to be planted to ensure fruiting
+    Frost tender (especially when young)

Download the calendars


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