Birds in the city

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apomnikow's picture
Birds in the city

Hi Folks

Recently moved to this great city and am looking to attract birds to my balcony.

I live SOuthbank on the 17th floor of a building, facing North. Any suggestions on what (if anything) I could do to attract them? I'd love to install a feede ror even a small bird bath, but not to sure where to start. I've never undertaken this sort of project,



Woko's picture

Hi Alex. I presume you mean Southbank in Melbourne & I presume you want to attract Australian native birds rather than feral birds such as the Common or Indian Mynah, Common Starling, Rock Dove, Feral Pigeon & House Sparrow, all of which compete all too successfully with Australian birds.

The first thing to realise is that you live in one of the most unnatural environments, at least for birds, that is available in Australia so to attract Australian birds you'll need to do two things. Firstly, discourage the feral birds &, secondly, provide as much habitat as possible for the native birds which are likely to be attracted to the seventeenth floor of your building.

Discouraging feral birds means not artificially feeding them & not leaving rubbish around (not that you or your neighbours would, of course) for Common Mynahs to use as nesting material. Common Mynahs & other ferals might be attracted to a bird bath. You could try one & if it becomes infested with undesirables then you could ditch it. Try a shallow bowl at first to see what happens. Australian Magpies, at least, might be interested.  

Your building with its abundant balconies approximates a cliff face, the very habitat that is attractive to Peregrine Falcons, particularly for nesting purposes. In fact, the Peregrine Falcon is known to have built a nest a few years ago in or near the top of one of Melbourne's tall buildings. However, I understand Peregrine Falcons don't enjoy human interference so you will, I think, be extremely lucky if you get one to inhabit your building or even your balcony - with or without human interference.

You might also want to think about whether you even want to attract such a species since it is a predator with sharp talons & beak & will vigorously defend its nest. Like many bird species, it might come to see you as non-threatening & leave you alone as you sip your coffee in the morning sun but that's an unknown as far as I know. A Peregrine Falcon might be attracted if you were to erect in a top corner of your balcony a plank with a low lip to prevent the eggs from rolling off. There's not much point in leaving nesting material on your balcony for the Peregrine Falcon to use because the species doesn't build a nest although it sometimes uses the nests of other raptors. Again, luck would play an enormous part in attracting this species.

Should you be lucky enough to have a Peregrine Falcon investigate or lay eggs on your balcony it would be immediately important to avoid as much disturbance as possible. I imagine it would involve getting the birds used to your repeated, non-threatening appearances at the window, then the door before you were able to venture onto the balcony. All this is conjecture of course & the birds might be gone by the time you can reclaim your balcony. The female incubates the eggs for about 33 days & then the youngsters are in the nest for about 40 days before they take off (Michael Morcombe: Field Guide to Australian Birds).

You might want to consider the feelings of your neighbouring balconers. Would they be happy to minimise their own disturbances in order to enjoy the comings & goings of a pair of beautiful Peregrine Falcons & then the raising of the young? Loud music & riotous parties would need to be put on hold if this is what you neighbours are into. I suspect it would be politic to consult with them & enlist their support or even involvement.

Should you be lucky enough to attract Peregrine Falcons they may discourage & reduce the numbers of feral birds which would be excellent tucker for their young so that could be a plus for the building.

Other habitat you could try is native plants in pots. Honeyeaters are attracted by a variety of Australian native plants but whether you would get them to use potted plants on the seventeen storey of your building I'm not sure. It's worth a try & you could document what you see so that the information could be used by other seventeenth storey dwellers if they should be interested in doing what you'd like to do. Plants indigenous to the Melbourne area would be the most suitable as that's what the local Honeyeaters are adapted to. You could ask the Melbourne City Council for a list of such plants. In fact, there is a Melbourne City councillor who posted a couple of times on Birds in Backyards several years ago & who was interested in providing more habitat for native birds in the Melbourne area. I'm sorry, I don't remember her name but enquiries might result in enlisting her support on a wider basis including the planting of indigenous native vegetation in the parks & streets near your building. The more native potted plants on balconies & the more native vegetation in Melbourne's parks, gardens & streets the better the chance that more native birds will visit you.

Some of the native bird-attracting genus which you might want to try in pots are Grevillea, Eremophila, Callistemon, Melaleuca & Epacris.

Providing natural habitat is far preferable to putting out food to attract native birds. In fact, artificially feeding birds can be quite injurious to them. You can read about this by typing <artificial feeding> in the search box near the top of this page. 

In all this, I would encourage you to keep your expectations low because, generally, high rise buildings are hostile to native birds.

If your efforts don't reap bird benefits after a while & you're still keen to help native birds then joining a bird watchers club, a Landcare group, a bush care group or a Friends of a national park group might be the go.

Other Birds in Backyard posters might have other ideas. Please let us know (preferably in the Attracting Native Birds to your Garden subforum) what you decide to do & the results you obtain because I strongly suspect you may become a pioneer in developing high rise habitat (HRH) & your results might be of interest in a variety of quarters.

 and @UrbanBirdsOz  @birdsinbackyards
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