Gardening with Bree

How to encourage insectivores and granivores this summer

Our feathered friends occupy one of five feeding categories based on their primary food source. While there’s nectarivores, frugivores and carnivores, early summer is a great time to look at insectivores and granivores.

Insectivores (insect-eating birds)

The home gardeners best friend! Their sharply pointed beaks are perfect for rapid retrieval of insects from leaves, twigs or the ground. Many insect eaters, like the Eastern Yellow Robin, like to sit on a nearby branch or stump and watch their prey waiting for the perfect moment to swoop before returning to their vantage point.

Our native insectivores feed on a wide variety of insects; these different food niches allow them to co-habitate without much competition for food. Pardalotes love picking pesky scale and thrips of the leaves of plants, while the White-throated Treecreeper probes for insects and spiders under tree bark.

Shrubs like Leptospermum laevigatum (coastal tea-tree), Acacia pardoxa, or Hakea purpurea provide great refuge and habitat for these smaller bird species, allowing them a safe place to escape cats and other larger birds. Avoiding chemical sprays, dusts and pesticides is essential. Even organic pesticides, such as pyrethrum should be avoided, as they are often not a targeted pesticide so they will kill any insect they come into contact with.

Granivores (seed-eating birds)

Summer is a great time of year for granivores as many flowering species are now producing seed. Finches can often be seen feeding on the seeds of many native grasses like Themeda triandra (Kangaroo Grass) and Microlaena stipoides (Weeping Grass) while the iconic Sulphur Crested Cockatoo prefers larger seed like that of Pittosporum and Banksia. Letting plants go to seed instead of removing spent flower heads is a great (and simple) way to support seed eating birds in your garden. Adding grasses like Xanthorrhoea minor, Austrostipa stipoides and Poa labillardieri to your garden will provide strappy foliage that can blend with many styles of garden, whilst still providing a valuable food source.

Granivores are very important for the dispersal of seed of many native plant species. Some seeds have a tough seed coat that inhibits germination. Passing through the intestinal tract of an animal softens this coat and allows the seed to germinate and grow.

Don’t forget about water

Water is a great way to attract any bird species to you­­r backyard. Birds cannot perspire to cool themselves down so water is an absolute necessity for summer. Place rocks or logs inside a birdbath to allow different bird species to access the water easily. Most birds prefer shallow water and pedestal birdbaths are a great option if you have cats in your area. Ensure your birdbath is cleaned and filled regularly and opt for a rough internal surface so it’s not too slippery for your local birds.

Written by Bree Townsend from STEM Landscape Architecture & Design | | Studio 3, 1/177 Beavers Road, Northcote, 3070, Vic.

Photo: Willie Wagtail by Emmy Silvius



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