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Plants for Birds

Planting the right trees in your garden can lure native birds back into your garden. Although native birds can fall roughly under three groups, nectar feeders, fruit and seed, and insect hunters, they seldom rely on one food source only. Offering a mix of plants will give birds a variety of food to sustain them through the seasons.


Kowhai are easy to grow and a beautiful addition to your garden for the flowers alone. For birds, they are an important nectar source. Kowhai will grow in most conditions and soil types. In its early years, it can be susceptible to caterpillars, which can be kept under control by a general insecticide. Choose a tree with a strong central leader and prune away growth up to the main branches to ensure a straight tree. Kowhai is deciduous with the botanical name Sophora.


This is a favourite among native pigeons. Once the tree becomes established, it provides an almost continuous supply of fruit and flowers. Scarlet berries follow the red flowers and it is sometimes called the New Zealand oak due to its leaves bearing resemblance to oak leaves. This evergreen will grow in conditions exposed to wind.

Kaka beak

Nectar eaters including tuis, bellbirds and wax-eyes favour this smaller shrub; a striking bush with kowhai-like leaves that produces masses of beak-shaped flowers up to 5mm in length. It likes a well-drained position and the company of other plants. Protect it from slugs and snails and cut back just after flowering. This evergreen shrub grows white, pink or red flowers and its botanical name is Clianthus.


There are many forms of the Pittosporum available to the home gardener and they fill the role of hedge and screen perfectly. They are also a great source of berries and nectar for birds. A popular variety is the Lemonwood, or Pittosporum Eungeniodes, which is easily recognisable by its distinct lemon scent when the leaves are crushed.


Commonly called wine berry and often mistaken for lacebark (see below). Its flowers vary from rose to red and are followed by berries that are dark red to black in colour. This is a favoured food of many native birds. It is a fast-growing, hardy tree that will cope with most garden conditions, except strong winds, as its soft wood is prone to splitting. This evergreen’s botanical name is Aristotelia.


Commonly known as lacebark because of the lace-like fibrous layer under the outer bark. Nectar feeders favour it for its mass of white flowers produced in late summer to early autumn. It is a fast-growing evergreen that will tolerate wet, boggy conditions and can be used as a screen or planted as a background tree.

Bird cake recipe

When food is short in the garden, you can offer a supplement for the birds with a simple bird cake.

  • Melt one block of lard, available from most supermarkets.
  • Add in birdseed and mix to combine.
  • Then leave to cool in a foil or metal container.
  • Once it has cooled, you can insert the cake into an old net onion bag.
  • Hang in a tree away from the clutches of cats.