Landscaping to Attract Birds
Most people find the movement, song and flashes of colour that birds bring to the garden irresistible, so in order to attract these captivating creatures, a carefully selected variety of indigenous plants will ensure that your garden landscape will accommodate an abundance of local birds.
To create a suitable habitat for birds one should try to mimic 'bushveld' by establishing three distinct layers. It is important to select indigenous plants that will thrive in your specific area while providing food, cover and acceptable nesting sites for your avian guests throughout the year.
The canopy or top layer should consist of trees of varying heights planted fairly close together allowing the canopies to overlap, thus creating a forest effect. Provided it is safe, leaving an old, dead tree in the garden will frequently provide nesting sites as well as food in the form of larvae in the dead wood for species such as Woodpeckers, Hoopoes, Barbets and Starlings as well as some of the more unusual species.
The middle layer should comprise a good variety of large, medium and smaller berry forming and flowering shrubs to provide nectar, insects and fruit for the various types of birds. Thorny shrubs will discourage predators, providing a safe nesting environment.
The bottom layer should have a 'grassland' effect and consist of small flowering plants as well as lawn for the various grassland species of birds that forage for insects on the surface of the soil. Clumps of decorative indigenous grasses such as the Elegias will not only look good but they will attract some of the seed eating birds as well.
The following selection of indigenous plants will appeal to a wonderful variety of birds.
Trees for your bird garden
- Halleria lucida (Tree fuchsia) the bright red or orange, tubular flowers are rich in nectar attracting a host of nectar feeding birds.
- Searsia (formerly genus Rhus) lancea (Karree) The flowers as well as the fruit of this popular, hardy tree make the Karree a good choice for a bird garden.
- Acacia species: Due to the thorns, most of the Acacias provide a safe nesting environment while the insects these trees attract provide food.
- Harpephyllum caffrum (Wild plum) the fruit of the handsome Wild plum is relished by a variety of birds.
- Pittosporum viridiflorum (Cheesewood) this tree is excellent for the bird garden providing insects as well as fruit. The seeds inside the fruit are much favoured by birds.
Shrubs for your bird garden
- Tecoma capensis (Cape honeysuckle) the masses of lovely, nectar filled, tubular flowers make this beautiful shrub irresistible to sunbirds.
- Ochna serrulata (Carnival bush) this delightful shrub is an asset to any garden. Many birds enjoy the red and black fruit.
- Aloe species: All the aloes will guarantee regular visits by nectar feeding as well as insectivorous birds.
- Chrysanthemoides monilifera (Bush tick berry) this dense, fast growing shrub will do well anywhere providing safe cover for birds as well as an abundant crop of berries.
- Carissa macrocarpa (Natal plum)the attractive but thorny Carissa is a must for the bird garden, providing a safe nesting site while the fruit and insects provide food.
Smaller plants for the bird garden
- Cotyledon orbiculata (Pig's ear) probably the best known Cotyledon species in South Africa, the pendulous, bell shaped flowers are rich in nectar.
- Gazania rigens (Trailing gazania) low growing, flowering plants attract a multitude of grubs and insects which will provide a permanent food source.
- Agapanthus praecox (Agapanthus) the sky blue or white flowers of these popular plants are a good source of nectar.
- Dietes grandiflora (Wild iris) these handsome, clump forming perennials host numerous insects at soil level as well as on the beautiful flowers.
- Helichrysum species (Everlasting) all species of helichrysum have attractive silver grey leaves and most of them have sunny yellow flowers. These useful groundcovers will ensure a good supply of insects.