In the “Exploring nature with children booklet”
Tui feeding on flax. Photo: DOC/Herb Christophers
Start by making sure you have a ready food source of native trees and shrubs - these could include kōwhai, flax, kakabeak and tarata (lemonwood) for nectar, and wineberry, karamū and korokia for fruit. Choose plants suitable to your local climate.
The DOC website features a list of important food-bearing plants and a month-by-month calendar of plants for native birds so you can provide a food source all year round.
Birds such as fantail, grey warbler and silvereye eat invertebrates 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.
Keeping birds safe – Manaaki ngā manu
South Westland Area school students checking trap
Rats, possums, and hedgehogs are common urban pests that prey on birds, eggs and chicks. If you want to keep your birds flourishing, controlling pests is a must, especially prior to the breeding season in late winter/early spring. Rats are also a major predator of lizards and invertebrates.
Trapping is a simple measure you can do at home to make a difference, and something that hopefully some of your kids will enjoy!
If you have a cat, you can make it more conservation friendly by getting it de-sexed, fitting a bell on its collar, feeding it at regular times and keeping it inside at night.
Birdfeeders: birdseed cupcakes, puddings, pinecones!
Help your children become more aware of the birds that visit your property by working with them to set up a safe feeding area. Provide a range of foods such as bird seed, cat biscuits soaked in water, lumps of fat, or bread and solutions of sugar or glucose in water on a bird table or other suitable homemade structure. See if your kids can find out which birds eat which foods.The best time to feed birds is in autumn and winter when food sources are scarce.
Bird cupcakes and puddings
- Melt about 500g of fat or lard in a saucepan.
- Add 1 tablespoon of raw sugar and some pieces of bacon rind (if available).
- Crumble some stale bread, scones etc in a plastic bag. Add some birdseed, wheat, raisins and broken biscuits into the crumbs.
- Slowly add the dry ingredients to the fat and stir with a wooden spoon. Your final mixture should be moist - not sloppy and not dry.
- For bird cupcakes - put the mixture into paper cupcake pans and leave in the fridge to set. You can hang the cupcakes from a tree, by adding a length of string to the mix so that you can tie the cupcake to a branch.
- For bird puddings, put the mixture into a basin and press down with a saucer until you see the fat oozing around the end of the saucer.
- Leave in the fridge to set. 8. Tie it up in a piece of nylon netting like an old onion or garlic bag and hang it from a tree or hook out of the reach of cats.
Making birdseed pinecones
For birdseed pine cones
- Cut a long piece of string to hang the bird feeder.
- Take the string and tie a knot around the pine cone near the top (the stalk end).
- Using a butter knife, create an equal mix of smooth peanut butter and lard in a bowl.
- Use the butter knife to spread the mixture inside the pine cone and around the edges.
- Hold the pine cone over the plate and sprinkle birdseed over it. Roll it in any remaining birdseed.
- Hang it from a tree or hook out of the reach of cats.