The best way to create a small bird friendly garden is simply to give the birds what they need… places to feed, nest, rest and breed.  If you design a garden around these requirements, using indigenous food-bearing plants, birds will flock to your garden.

Birds will visit even the smallest gardens, provided that these basic needs are catered for.  In other words, you need to create a great habitat (a place that can provide for all these needs). 

Here at Random Harvest Indigenous Plant Nursery, we have used South African indigenous plants to create a small bird-friendly garden with many elements that they find attractive.

The garden’s design shows that one can still attract many bird species to visit, and provide place for some to even stay, whilst not compromising on a carefully maintained and landscaped garden. 

It does not need to look “wild and woolly” but can be a balanced mix of clipped, and neatly pruned plants as well as those left to show off their natural architecture.

The design of the bird friendly garden is around three basic zones - an exclusion area, an open area and a body of water.
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Water in a bird friendly garden

Probably the most important feature is water, as this is essential to all life.  Birds do not require elaborate, big water features a simple shallow tray or grind stone is sufficient for their needs. 

Small bird baths - the most important consideration is that the water should have shallow sloping edges into which the birds can walk and then drink and bathe at the depth that feels safe.  Unless the tray is very shallow, steep vertical sides will limit the number of birds that will use it.
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A water feature or wildlife pond works on the same principle – shallow edges for wading birds and small birds to make use of. See our article on Creating a small wildlife pond. 

Food plants in a bird friendly garden

Choose the biggest variety of different indigenous food plants (i.e. nectar, seed, fruit, insects) for each zone.  This will ensure that there is a food source all year round and will encourage the birds to become resident.

Planting food for birds

It is always better to provide food for birds by planting the correct plants and selecting those that will naturally provide food all year round. South African indigenous plants are the natural and strongest foundation of any healthy habitat in our country. 

Not only do these plants provide fruit, seed (including grain) and nectar and pollen, they also provide habitat for insects that are a large part of most birds’ diets. Even predominantly seed- and fruit-eating birds will supplement their diet with insects and small creatures to some extent.

The greater the variety of food plants one can include in the garden, the greater the variety of birds that you may attract.

Grouping bird friendly plants into zones of the garden

One can go a step further by grouping indigenous plants, adding non-living elements such as wood, stone and water, and shaping the landscape to create and enhance particular garden zones that birds make use of. 

Different species of birds have different requirements from their habitat. By creating areas (zones) with specific habitat characteristics, as well as offering security and nesting sites, you will encourage a greater variety of birds.   

They will then become resident even in the smallest of gardens.  Our next three articles will look at The Exclusion Zone, the Open Zone and Water in the small bird-friendly garden. Suggestions of what bird-friendly plants to use in that zone / area can be found in each of these articles.

You can include all, one or a few of these zones in your garden, but always be mindful of the species of bird that occur around your garden. One is unlikely to attract what is not found in the area in the first place.

Random Harvest - Indigenous Plant Nursery 

Our indigenous plant finder is a fantastic resource to use when choosing which plants you would like to add to your garden. Additionally, you are welcome to contact us with any questions you may have regarding indigenous gardening.