Watching garden birds in your own back yard can be very rewarding, particularly if you landscape your garden to include an open area to attract birds and other garden wildlife.
The open area is the part of the garden where birds like to have an unimpeded view of happenings in their immediate surroundings.
Birds will not find much shelter in the open zone, but will rather be found in this part of the garden when looking for food and water, sunning themselves or taking a sand bath. The open area can be a small section of lawn grass area next to a pond or other accessible area of water in the garden. Water at ground level is a form of open area zone in a bird friendly garden. For inspiration to design a small garden for birds, have a look at our article: Create a Small Bird Friendly Garden Using Indigenous Plants.
Top of a garden owner’s mind is how to make their garden look nice. Aesthetically, an open area or zone looks beautiful when garden plants of various heights are planted in beds near the lawn, water feature or low growing plants.
Birds like to be able to survey the open area from a secluded vantage point. They also like to escape to taller shrubs and trees such as those in the Exclusion Zone when they feel they are in danger. Implement your garden design ideas in such a way that bird watching with binoculars is not essential.
The open area should be observable from a spot that gives you an open view of the lawn and / or bird friendly water feature.
Blend low growing indigenous plants such as groundcovers, some succulents and indigenous lawn grasses into the open area.
Include species that will attract insects and provide seeds and fruit for birds to feed on. A good variety of plant types will entice more types of South African birds out into the open, encouraging them to be active where you can see them.
Include an area of longer veld grasses (e.g. Turpentine Grass – Hyparrhenia hirta) and taller flowering herbaceous grassland plants (e.g. Milkweed - Gomphocarpus fruticosus) on the edge of the lawn. This will provide food and nesting material. It will also provide cover for birds if they are startled and need to seek refuge quickly.
Some low growing indigenous plants for the open area of a garden:
Lawn grass such as Stenatotaphrum secundatum - Buffalo Grass (E)
Insect attracting plants
Becium obovatum (= new name Ocimum obovatum) - Cat's Whiskers (E), Katsnor (A) Size to 30cm
Stachys aethiopica and Stachys aethiopica ‘Pink’ - African Stachys (E), Katpisbossie (A) Size 25 to 35cm
Gazania species, especially Gazania "Gazoo" - Citrus Mix & Fire Mix. Hybrids. Size 15 to 25cm
Hypoxis hemerocallidaea - African Potato (E), Sterblom (A) Size to 30cm
Cotula sericea - Sikly Buttons (E) Size 20 to 40cm
Geranium incanum - Carpet Geranium (E), Bergtee (A) Size up to 30cm
Scabiosa columbaria - Wild Scabiosa (E), Bitterbos (A) Size 15 to 30cm
Otholobium decumbens - Carpet Pea (E), Agtdaegeneesbossie (A) Size 5 to 10cm
Arctotheca calendula - Cape Dandelion (E), Kaapse Gouseblom (A) Size up to 10cm
Arctotis arctoides - Putswa-pududu (Tsw), Ubushwa (X) Size 8 to 10cm
Cineraria saxifraga- Wild Cineraria (E) Size 15 to 20cm
Delosperma lydenbergense - Klipvygie (A) Size up to 10cm
Aloe greatheadii - Kleinaalwyn / Grasaalwyn (A) Size 20 to 30cm
Cotyledon orbiculata- Pig's Ear (E), Varkore (A) Size 40 to 80cm
Fruit and seed bearing plants
Eragrostis capensis (Seed) - Small Heartseed Grass (E), Hartjiesgras (A) Size up to 50cm
Stipa dregeana (Seed) - Stipa Grass (E) - Size 0,5 to 1,2m
Asparagus densiflorus - Cat's Tail Asparagus (E), Katstert (A) - Size to 1m
Water feature plants
Kniphofia pauciflora - Dainty Poker (E) - Size up to 35cm
Mentha longifolia- Wild Spearmint (E) - Size 30 - 50cm
Nymphaea nouchalli - Blue Water Lily (E), Blouwaterlelie (A) - Size: Floating parts spread to 1m diameter , Nymphoides indica - Yellow Water Lily (E), Geelwaterlelie (A) - Size: Floating to 1m diameter.
More ways to attract birds to the open area of the garden:
Lapwings (Blacksmith, Wattled, Banded), African Hoopoe, Cape Robinchat, Thrush species, Hadeda Ibis, Laughing Dove and other Dove species, Guinea Fowl, Francolin, Egrets, Weaver bird species, Sparrow species, Quela Birds, Bokmakierie, Longclaw species, Wagtail species, Waxbill species, some Starling species, including the Cape Glossy Starling, Pied Starling, Stonechat, Swallows and swifts (mostly flying), Bee-eater species including the European Bee-eater.
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