I enjoy encouraging wildlife and birds to visit or live in my garden.
I enjoy the visits of local Australian species of bird to my garden. While a substantial portion of my backyard is dedicated to growing fruit and vegetables, there are sections that I have planted with native bushes and shrubs. These plants are low maintenance, needing little water or feeding once established, and only occasional pruning. The foliage is quite thick on many which provides protection for the birds. These bushes also attract insects and spiders which some birds feed on.
New Holland Honeyeater
New Holland Honeyeaters (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae) were scientifically described in 1790, just two years after the arrival of the first fleet in Australia. At that time, the country now known as Australia was called New Holland – hence the first part of the name of this bird species. There are five sub-species of New Holland Honeyeaters found throughout southern Australia, including in Tasmania. The second part of the bird’s common name indicates that they are nectar eating birds.
New Holland Honeyeaters are mostly black and white, with a splash of yellow on their wings and tail. They have the long beaks typical of nectar eaters – essential for drinking nectar from flowers. Although nectar forms the mainstay of their diet, they also eat fruit, insects, and spiders.
In Western Australia they breed annually from late winter through to spring when nectar is readily available as native plants flower. The females usually build the nest, while males defend it. Both males and females gather food for the chicks, although females stay closer to the nest while males will fly further afield to gather food for their young.
I see them flitting about in my garden or perched on thin branches as they drink nectar from the flowers. They are abundant and I see them in the bush near my favourite dog walking beach as well as in my garden.
Splendid Fairy Wren
Splendid Fairy Wrens (Malurus splendens), commonly known as Blue Wrens are dainty little birds which flitter about along my driveway and nest in the jasmine vine which grows over the side fence from my neighbour’s yard. Early in my occupancy of the house I asked the neighbour to prune the vine back and have planted native bushes on my side of the fence to maintain a good habitat for the wrens.
Splendid Fairy Wrens are characterised by the blue tinted tail feathers seen on both male and female birds, and the mating plumage of the males which is a beautiful mix of bright blues and black. The male birds, resplendent in their mating plumage peck at their reflections in the car rear view mirrors. Splendid Fairy Wrens are a much-loved bird of Western Australia, and bird watchers throughout the country are willing to go to great lengths to observe and photograph them.
Blue wrens are insectivores, darting about snatching flying insects and spiders. They are particularly active in mid to late afternoon. They are non-migratory, living in the same area throughout the year and are social birds. Not only do the parents feed the newly hatched young, older sons and other birds assist with this task. They also groom each other and huddle together for comfort and warmth.
A less common visitor is the Red-eared Firetail (Stagonopleura oculate). They are a species of finch and are only found in the southwest of Australia. They are solitary and very secretive. Red-eared Firetails generally remain hidden amongst dense bushes where they feed close to the ground on seeds and occasionally on insects.
They are mostly brown on their upper body, with narrow black stripes. Their underside is speckled with white on black. Overall, their colouring helps to camouflage them in the bush. However, they have bright red beaks, a black mask, a red dot near their eye, and red on their rump. Both males and females are similar in appearance, although the colouring of the males intensifies during breeding season.
Firetails choose a lifetime mate in their first year of life and breed annually, in November to December. The female lays between four and six eggs which are incubated for about two weeks, the chicks remain in the nest for about three weeks after hatching. Both parents share in the duties of incubating the eggs and feeding their new chicks.
It's relatively easy to attract local species of birds to your garden. A bird bath in a safe location (away from cats) and a mix of flowering plants will encourage them to visit, and maybe stay a while. They will help to keep the bugs down and give you enjoyment as you watch them go about their lives.
© 2021 Nan Hewitt