“Birds can be joyful, beautiful, funny, cute, melodic or raucous and provide us with an amazing opportunity to connect with the natural world.” (1)
In the Southern Highlands we have an amazing range of birds that occur naturally. Surrounding our urban areas a bounty of biological diversity is provided within national parks, water catchment areas, nature reserves and state forests. Bringing in the birds to our urban areas makes sense as they provide many benefits such as pollination, seed dispersal, insect control and recycling of nutrients. They are so important to the health of eco-systems; scientists use their status to determine levels of sustainability.
As manmade environments become more prevalent in our region it is important that we understand more about the needs and habits of birds. In modified (manmade) environments some birds become winners and others losers. The population of winners increase and the loser’s population decline as we decrease and fragment our natural vegetation systems.
When creating modified landscapes it is important to create a structurally diverse landscape with lots of layers of different vegetation such as trees, shrubs, grasses, groundcovers and leaf litter. It is always best to plant native species local to the area as our native birds rely upon local species and they are generally the best species suited to our local environment.
“A garden that provides natural food for birds such as one with native grasses to provide seed, mulch to encourage insects and small flowering locally native shrubs to feed honeyeaters is much better for our whole bird community than one that feeds only a few potentially problem birds”.(2)
Birds that would be grouped as winners (ie. those whose populations increase in manmade landscapes) include parrots, large honeyeaters, large carnivores and exotic species. Birds that would be considered losers include ground parrots, birds of fertile soils, and small honeyeaters. Many of the species considered as losers are now on the endangered species list.
Birds also need water as well as a home to build a nest. If your garden does not have a permanent source of water it is a good idea to provide a birdbath. If you do provide a birdbath ensure the water quality is of a standard suitable for drinking. Regular cleaning and adding fresh water are essential requirements.
If there are no habitat trees with hollows suitable for birds to nest in, the provision of nesting boxes assists in maintaining bird populations.
After doing all the right actions to encourage our native birds it is essential to be aware that the habitat you have provided could be open to invasion from exotic birds or birds and animals of predation. If necessary assist your local birds to repel invasions from unwanted birds and animals such as cats and foxes.
“Enjoy sharing your garden with birds. Make it a place where they can feel safe visiting. Create thickets or hedges with local native shrubs, put in a birdbath and build a nest box. Become familiar with what is visiting and keep records, they can be valuable.” (3)
The quotes 1,2 & 3 above were taken from a fantastic web site. For those who care about our native birds and our natural environment go to www.birdsinbackyards.net/ and be educated and inspired by this invaluable research, education and conservation effort produced by Birds Australia, The Australian Museum, The NSW Environment Trust and Birds in Backyards. You can also get involved by helping them to gather information from your backyard for their ongoing survey.