The Importance Of Creating A Bird-Friendly Water Wise Garden

Birds play an important role in our gardens as many plants rely on them for effective pollination and seed dispersal. Gardens can create a wide range of habitats for birds; however, in many gardens the diversity of birds is limited to a handful of species. You can easily triple the number and diversity of bird species that visit your garden by planting no-drop and one-drop water wise plants. These plants will provide a buffet throughout the year for seed, fruit eaters, as well as nectarivorous birds. In addition to conserving water, having a variety of water wise plants contributes to creating an eco-friendly garden in which insects flourish and draw the attention of birds. Many no-drop and one-drop water wise plants also provide perfect roosting and nesting sites for birds.

What are Water Wise plants?

  • They originate from regions that have low rainfall and are therefore adapted to survive and thrive with very little water.
  • Once established, they require very little watering, except during very hot dry spells. During dry, non-rainfall months, they only need to be watered every six to eight weeks.
  • All succulents are no-drop or one-drop plants. In most instances, they need no additional water and can survive on rainfall only.

Five tips to help you create a Water Wise bird-friendly garden

1.Water features and bird baths

Keep large water features and ponds to a minimum and make them as small as possible. While birds do like to drink and bathe, a small, raised bird bath with shallow water is ideal and can be replenished with fresh, clean water regularly.

2.Reduce your lawn size

Traditional lawns, such as kikuyu, require regular and lengthy watering. Reduce the size of your lawn with one-drop water wise trees and shrubs and plant indigenous grasses such as thatching reed grass (Elegia tectorum) or red grass (Themeda triandra) beneath them. These grasses also provide seeds on which seed-eating birds such as weavers, sparrows, wydahs and doves feed.

3.Plant a variety of trees, shrubs and perennials

The greater the variety of plants that you have in your garden, the greater the diversity of birds you will attract. Different heights and profiles of plants will enable a range of birds to utilise various niches in the garden. Select your plant species, while matching specific hydrozones, with a view to having flowers, fruit and seeds available in your garden at different times of the year. Remember also to create a seclusion zone to lure the shyer, more secretive bird species such as cape white-eye, bush shrikes, and rameron pigeon.

4. Avoid pesticides

Keep your garden as natural as possible and avoid using pesticides or herbicides that may have a harmful effect on birds. Using these chemicals will reduce species diversity and result in insect-eating birds hunting elsewhere for food.

5. Allow leaf litter to accumulate

Leaf litter and mulches provide additional nutrients to your plants and help to slow water loss from the soil. Accumulated leaf litter also provides ideal foraging areas for birds such as thrushes and robin-chats that like to turn over leaves and dig through garden debris in search of worms and insects.

The Gardener