Indigenous Nursery News Blog

Create a Small Bird-Friendly Garden 2 - The Exclusion Zone

Bird enthusiasts are always looking for ways to attract birds to the garden. One can do this by creating an Exclusion zone made up of South African Indigenous Plants.

Attract birds to the garden with an Exclusion Zone

Birds will be attracted to a garden that provides for their needs, but will stay for longer if they feel safe and not vulnerable. Even the smallest garden can provide the kind of shelter that protects birds from predation, provides safe nesting sites and allows shy birds to enter the garden and hang around, because they feel as if no one has noticed them. 

This kind of shelter is provided in the form of dense planting of a mix of indigenous plant species. We call this area the Exclusion zone.

bird-friendly gardens

What is the Exclusion zone?

It is simply an area of very dense planting of trees and shrubs that will offer food and security for shy birds that do not like to expose themselves and prefer to move through dense vegetation. In noisy or busy areas, it provides them with protection.

The Exclusion zone can be tops of trees that merge into one another where their branches meet. It can be a Bush Clump, or even an area of long grasses and shrubs.

The success of the Exclusion zone lies in how “connected” it is to the rest of the garden and to surrounding areas, through vegetation. Birds need to feel safe entering and exiting the garden in order for them to spend time in it, and for them to return time and again to a “safe haven”.

Bush Clumps as an exclusion zone - If you do not have space for a large exclusion zone, one can combine plants to create a bush clump, which takes a lot less space. Create a bush clump by planting one or maybe two small trees. Then plant two or three shrubs up close to the tree, about 20 to 40cm away from the tree and allow them to entangle. Choose the species that have the most benefit to birds – Insect attracting, rough bark for insects to hide under, nectar producing and / or fruit bearing. This will ensure the maximum amount of wildlife that will use it.

Corridor and canopy as an exclusion zone - The corridor is a “green highway” for birds to move from area to area in safety. This can be as simple as a canopy of trees and shrubs in which the birds can move around without exposing themselves to danger from predators. In smaller gardens, allow your plants to merge with your neighbour’s plants to help create an unbroken route for birds in and out of the garden.

The canopy also provides good nesting sites, especially cavities in branches and tree trunks. One can add nesting logs to create nesting sites where there are no cavities in existing trees for this.

The taller canopy area is also used for vocalising and declaring territories. The inclusion of some tall trees will encourage birds such as owls species that prefer to live higher up.

bird-friendly gardens

The corridor should be a valuable source of food for birds, so careful consideration of plant species used in this area is essential.

Landscaping the Bird garden Exclusion zone

To keep the area aesthetically pleasing, give some thought to the way in which you will view this part of the garden that is set aside for your feathered friends. Select indigenous plants for balance of form, texture and colour, whilst not compromising on their value to birds visiting the garden.

bird-friendly gardens

For example, a clipped hedge of

Halleria elliptica (Rock Tree Fuchsia) provides a boundary for informal planting behind it, and yet, due to its bird attracting characteristics of nectar bearing flowers and succulent berries that follow, will still draw birds into the rest of the Exclusion Zone.

Scruffy, deciduous thorny shrubs that provide good nesting spots can be tucked away at the back of the garden to keep things looking “tidy”.

Where should the Exclusion zone be situated?

This should be in the quietest area of the garden. One can have more than one exclusion area, depending on the size of your garden. If your neighbours have vegetation that spills over your fence or wall, incorporate this into the exclusion zone. By merging shrubbery and trees over property borders to create a continuous band of green, corridors are created for birds, and other creatures, to move freely in and out of the garden

Other considerations when creating an Exclusion zone for birds in your garden

Quiet - Remember this must be a quiet area without disturbance, so keep the gardening and cleaning to an absolute minimum.

Mulch - When planting lay down a good thick layer of woodchips and place a few logs. The process of the wood and woodchips breaking down with all its attendant insects will provide a rich source of food for shy birds. Birds, such as Robins and Thrushes will scratch in the mulch for insects.

Water - It is important to provide water for these shy inhabitants. If you do not have a pond that is adjacent to the exclusion zone, it is important that water is provided where these cryptic creatures can drink and bathe with a feeling of security. The best way to provide this is a simple shallow depression be it a grindstone or tray, with some means of keeping it full. If there is a water pipe close by one could install a dripper. Alternately a bird bath would have to be filled by hand.

One can also have an area of longer veld grasses and flowering herbaceous grassland plants on the edge of the lawn. This will provide food as well as cover for birds if they are startled and need to seek refuge quickly.

bird-friendly gardens

List of some garden birds you will attract to the Exclusion zone, including bushclumps, corridor and plant canopy areas

Owls, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Green Wood-hoopoe, Blackcollared and Crested Barbet, Owls, Go-away Bird, Mouse Bird, Black headed Oriole, Cape White Eyes, Flycatchers, Orange Breasted Bush Shrike, Bokmakerie, Prinias, Rameron Pigeon, Cuckoos, Burchells Coucal, Mousebirds, Redthroated Wryneck, Robins, Southern Bou-bou.

Best indigenous plant species for Exclusion area, Bush clump, Corridor & Canopy

Apart from tall trees that make up the canopy (tall “umbrella-like” cover) zone, so many of these indigenous plant species are suitable for a number of zones that we have listed these zones for each species.

bird-friendly gardens

Please see the Random Harvest plant catalogue for a description of each plant. Only the plants that were included in our display garden are listed below. There are many more indigenous plant species to consider, depending on the area in which you live.

Additional plants used in the exclusion zone and its borders in the Random Harvest Small Bird Friendly Garden

Shrubs: Leonotis leonurus (Wild Dagga), Carissa macrocarpa (Num-num), Rhamnus prinoides (Dogwood)

Small plants: Chaetacanthus setiger (Fairy Stars), Salvia namaensis (Nama Sage)

For a diagram of this Small Bird-friendly Garden, and more information, Click here.


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