News | 9 June 2023
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Friday Five: Ways to protect native birds in your backyard

In Pōneke, we’re lucky to see manu/birds of all shapes and sizes visiting our backyards. From the loud kākā to the iridescent kererū, it can be super exciting to see these birds but we need to be conscious of how we interact with them. Here are five tips from Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne to take care of birds in your garden.

Two kaka in a tree, squaring off to each other!

1. Don’t give out junk food 

Manu have evolved alongside our native trees and are able to get the nutrients that they need from these plants. While they love eating kai like nuts, these foods are a bit like junk food to native birds and can have negative impacts on their health.

Feeding kākā the wrong foods can lead to metabolic bone disease, especially during breeding season as adults bring food back to the nest for their developing chicks.

2. Plant native trees instead of having bird feeders

Feeders can be a breeding ground for diseases that spread throughout bird populations when birds all flock to one place, or when feeders are not cleaned properly. For example, some kākā have died due to salmonella and toxoplasmosis present in at-home feeders, both of which can also pose a risk to humans.

Instead, trees provide space for manu to safely spread out, and as the tree changes throughout the seasons it can attract birds of different kinds.

A chonky Kererū balancing on a tree branch.

3. Think about the risks in your backyard

As well as spreading disease, attracting manu to one spot can also make them more vulnerable to predators. At Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne, the fence keeps the birds safe. However, in your backyard, a loud group of manu can be a beacon for cats and other mammalian predators who can take advantage of distracted birds.

4. Don’t consistently feed the birds! 

Kākā are very intelligent manu and spend their energy reserves figuring out how to get food in a variety of different places and ways. Sometimes you hear about kākā damaging property, and it seems that this behavior occurs where kākā can access food too easily. Ordinarily, kākā must work quite hard for their food, but easy access to high-energy food leaves them with time and energy to burn!

Once people start feeding kākā a little bit, the news quickly spreads and the number of birds turning up for some ‘fast food’ can quickly rise, which is unhealthy for kākā and for people.

A single tūi in a tree full of yellow flowers.

5. Protect the little guys

Planting trees and shrubs as opposed to just providing bird food also helps everything in the ecosystem! Lizards love small shrubs, and insects like wētā love to live within tree trunks and small crevices. You’ll also attract other manu who like munching on insects more than drinking nectar, so visitors like pīwakawaka, riroriro and tauhou will be regulars in your garden.

We recommend using eco-sourced plants, which are plants that are sourced and naturally occur in the area you live in. To find out which plants are good for your area or home, check out a local nursery for help or check out this helpful guide from the Department of Conservation.

Check out the original article from Zealandia on their website.

Watch out each Friday for a fun list of five great activities to do, places to explore, or things to discover in our awesome city.