Attracting Birds

A great way to enhance your patch is to choose native plants and trees that will attract native birds. At different times of the year, different parts of a tree will be utilized, such as, flowers and nectar, fruit and leaves. Also consider places for birds to nest, such as dense shrubberies and tall trees. Often a tall tree will attract native birds to your garden by providing a good perching spot. Find out about the native birds you can attract to your garden and suitable plants for each.

Birds you can encourage to your place can be grouped into four main categories, depending on what they feed on:

  • Nectar eaters
  • Fruit eaters
  • Leaf, flower and fruit eaters
  • Insect eaters

Nectar eaters

Tui, bellbirds and waxeyes are our most common nectar feeders. They are also listed under ‘Fruit eaters’ as they also include fruit in their diet. Find out more about them below:

Tui

Tui are endemic to New Zealand and belong to the honeyeater family, which means they feed mainly on nectar from flowers of native plants. Occasionally they will eat insects too. Tui are important pollinators of many native trees and will fly large distances to find their favourite foods, especially during winter.

Tui have curved beaks and special tongues that are like paintbrushes that allow them to lap up nectar.

Bellbirds

Well camouflaged, the bellbird is usually heard before it is seen. Females are dull olive-brown, with a slight blue sheen on the head and a pale yellow cheek stripe. Males are olive green, with a purplish head and black outer wing and tail feathers. Like the tui, bellbirds also have special tongues designed to lap up nectar.

Bellbirds are also endemic to New Zealand and were once widespread. However, ship rats and stoats have taken their toll. Bellbirds usually live in forest and shrubland habitats. They need reasonable cover and good local food sources during the breeding season, since they do not travel far from their nest. However, outside the breeding season bellbirds, particularly the males, may travel many kilometres to feed.

Waxeyes

Waxeyes are a small olive–green forest bird with white rings around the eyes. They have a fine tapered bill and a brush tipped tongue like the tui and bellbird for drinking nectar.

Waxeyes are native to New Zealand, but not endemic. They colonized New Zealand naturally from Australia and were recorded in New Zealand as early as 1832. It wasn’t until 1856 that they arrived in very large numbers. They are now one of the most common birds in New Zealand.

Planting for nectar eaters

Plant the following to encourage nectar eaters to your place. Check out the growing conditions they each prefer. Use the mouse-overs to see information about symbols.

Common nameBotanical namePlant typeWetDrySunShadeFrost
Cabbage tree Cordyline australis
Flax Phormium tenax
Fuchsia* Fuchsia excorticata
Kohuhu/Mapou Pittosporum tenuifolium
Kowhai Sophora microphylla
Lemonwood Pittosporum eugenioides
Rata Metrosideros umbelata

*Note: Fuchsia needs moist soil, it cannot tolerate very wet or dry conditions.

Fruit eaters

Tui, bellbird, waxeyes and kereru (native pigeon) are all fruit eaters found in Southland. See our information about tui, bellbird and waxeyes above.

Kereru

The kereru is a large bird and can measure up to 51 cm from tail to beak, and weigh about 650g. It has iridescent green and bronze feathers on its head and back, and a distinctive white vest on its front. The noisy beat of its wings is a distinctive sound in our forests.

Since the extinction of the moa, the native pigeon is now the only seed disperser with a bill big enough to swallow large fruit, such as those of miro.

Planting for fruit eaters

Plant the following to encourage fruit eaters to your place:

Common nameBotanical namePlant typeWetDrySunShadeFrost
Broadleaf Griselinia littoralis
Cabbage tree Cordyline australis
Coprosma/ Mingimingi Coprosma propinqua
Fuchsia* Fuchsia excorticata
Kahikatea Dacrydium dacrydioides
Pepperwood Pseudowintera colorata
Totara Podocarpus hallii
Wineberry Aristotelia serrata

*Note: Fuchsia needs moist soil, it cannot tolerate very wet or dry conditions.
Use the mouse-overs to see information about symbols.

Leaf, flower and fruit eaters

Kereru are important fruit eaters, however they also browse on leaves and flowers. Plant the following to encourage kereru to your place:

Common nameBotanical namePlant typeWetDrySunShadeFrost
Cabbage tree Cordyline australis
Fuchsia* Fuchsia excorticata
Kowhai Sophora microphylla
Lowland ribbonwood Plagianthus regius
Wineberry Aristotelia serrata

*Note: Fuchsia needs moist soil, it cannot tolerate very wet or dry conditions.
Use the mouse-overs to see information about symbols.

Insect eaters

Silvereye, greywarbler and fantail are insect eaters. Morepork and kingfisher also eat insects as well as other small animals such as mice and lizards. Birds are a great natural way to keep unwanted insect pests under control.

Attract insect eaters to your garden by encouraging a healthy mix of spiders, moths, beetles, wetas, earthworms, katydids and stick insects. Plant a range of trees, shrubs and grasses to encourage insects to your place. A good layer of mulch or leaf litter on the garden will also provide good habitat for insects.

Planting a range of trees and shrubs also provides suitable nesting sites for the birds you are trying to encourage. Remember that a lawn or concreted areas don’t provide good habitat for birds!

Wetland birds

Got a wetland at your place? Consider enhancing what you’ve got to provide suitable habitat for wetland birds such as ducks, fernbirds and herons. Find out more about wetland protection and restoration.

Find out more

Check out the following to find out more about our native birds: