Natives to attract birds

Posted by Justin Lewis at

The bird life in New Zealand is a fraction of what it used to be and native birds have disappeared or dwindled in numbers in a lot of areas, both rural and urban.

A lot can be done to reverse this situation, and it is mainly about providing safe habitat and natural food sources, that are similar to that provided by nature.

Planting a range of New Zealand natives is going to make a huge difference to local bird life.  Generally a mixture of natives will provide a range of habitats and a varying food source for native birds.  

mixed nz natives  to attract birds

Mixed natives plantings also provide habitat for insects, mites, lizards and frogs.  All these critters help form the eco system that sustains all native wildlife.  Once some sort of natural balance is achieved the birds will simply come as part of that.

There are some natives that particularly stand out for providing food and habitat for birds.  Lets look at some of our favourite NZ natives for attracting birds.

Coprosma (coprosma sp) - this is number one on our list for a reason - it is a superstar when choosing plants for birds!  Corposma produce masses of berries for the birds, and at other times they harbour mites that many small birds love to graze on.  

natives to attract birds coprosma

The family of Coprosma is huge and varied with hundreds of varieties to choose from.  Most are tough, hardy and unfussy about conditions.  There is a whole diverse range - low growing, tall growing, everything in between.  

Some of our favourite Coprosma for attracting birds include: Coprosma robusta, Coprosma virescens, Coprosma, rubra Coprosma propinqua,   Whether it is large leaved, twiggy, lush, sparse, whatever the look you are going for there will be a list of suitable coprosmas.  

...more about Coprosma


harakeke nz flax phormium tenax

Harakeke or Flax (phormium sp) - An absolute favourite for Bellbirds and Tui.  They just love the nectar and often can be seen on the flaxes throughout spring and summer.  Flax is also a highly recommended native plant due to its very strong and hardy growth and its ability to thrive in coastal conditions through to the mountains.  

There are two main varieties of NZ Flax - Phormium tenax (Harakeke) and Phormium Cookianum (Wharariki).   Each of these naturally comes in a Green form or Purple form.   There are many flax cultivars or selections, all of which are derIved from these two varieties.   To attract birds or for shelter it is best to stick to these natural or 'wild' forms of flax, although some garden varieties can be equally as good.


... more about NZ Flax

natives to attract birds corokia yellow wonderCorokia - Another abundant berry producer, and a beautiful and interesting shrub. Corokia are very ornamental with interesting texture and generally very different silvery look.  They are particularly suitable for dry conditions, but will be fine in damp situations.  They are quite tough and will withstand most frosts.  

Corokia come in a range of varieties each with a different look.   They all produce flowers and berries, so all are suitable for attracting birds.   

Some of the more popular varieties include: Corokia Red Wonder, Corokia Yellow Wonder, Corokia Frosted Chocolate, Corokia Bronze Knight/Bronze King.   We try to have these varieties available all the time. 

There are also some less common Corokia that we often have in stock, these are also very suitable for birds and useful for more specialised situations.  These include Corokia Geenty's Green, Corokia macrocarpa, Corokia Jaxon, Corokia Renegade (Blackberry & Lime), Corokia sunsplash.

...more about Corokia


nz natives to attract birds sophora microphylla

Kowhai (sophora sp) - This tree is not only a favourite of New Zealanders but also a favourite of our New Zealand birds.  The Kereru, Bellbird and Tui just love feasting on the nectar from the flowers.  Kereru also graze on the young foliage and will strip the tree bare in spring.  This is not a problem as the foliage soon grows back, and it is a wonderful site of spring seeing the fat Kereru perched in the Kowhai planning its next feast, or regularly visiting all the Kowhai on your property.

Kowhai come in a few varieties including Sophora microphylla (South Island Kowhai).   This is a smaller tangled tree.   Sophora tetraptera (North Island Kowhai) is a larger faster growing tree and grows equally well in North or South Island.   Sophora Dragons Gold is a garden variety that grows more as a small shrub and has the special feature of winter flowers.   Sophora prostrata is a low growing dwarf form that is also very interesting in gardens.

natives for birds

Cabbage Tree (cordyline) - This iconic New Zealand tree is a must have to stamp a kiwi mark on your bird friendly native patch.  Another nectar producer from the flowers, so a favourite with Bellbird, Tui and Kereru.  Cabbage trees also produce berries that provide food.  Very tough and will withstand most conditions.

There are quite a few wonderful hybrid cabbage trees that have been bred for colour and form.  Whilst we totally recommend planting these in your garden to make your garden special we recommend planting good old plain green cabbage tree (Cordyline australis) as well as this is the best variety to attract and feed birds especially bellbird and tui.  

 pittosporum tenuifolium kohuhu

Pittosporum (pittosporum sp) - This wonderful and popular group of shrubs produces beautifully fragrant flowers in spring, and makes an excellent screen or shelter.  In Autumn, it produces seed pods filled with a resinous gum that holds the seeds in the shell.  The birds love to forage on these seeds and they will remain on the plants for long periods of time providing an on-going seed source.

Pittosporums are generally available in three main natural forms - Pittosporum tenuifolium, Pittosporum Eugenoides and Pittosporum Ralphii. All of these varieties are very suitable for attracting feeding native birds.   There are also a great many Pittosporum cultivars available that are derived from these forms, and most are also suitable for attracting birds.  

...more about Pittosporums

natives to attract birds hoheria broadleafLacebark (hoheria sp) - these trees are very fast growing, and form lovely medium sized trees.  They provide excellent habitat for birds who love to graze on the leaves.  Lacebarks come in several different distinctive forms from small and compact, to large and broad to tall and slender.  We usually try to available:   Hoheria Populnea  (Lacebark); Hoheria Angustifolia (Narrow Leaved Lacebark), Hoheria Sextylosa (Long Leaved Lacebark) and Hoeria Lyalli (Mountain Lacebark).

All Lacebarks produce masses of showy white flowers in Spring and Summer that are so spectacular that it is really a shame to not include at least a few in any native planting.

 nz broadleaf grisilinea littoralis

Broadleaf (griselinea) - this tough and resilient shrub will grow almost anywhere and is remarkable for its ability to withstand most conditions.  Left to it's own devices it will grow into a large shrubby tree, but it is often trimmed into a small shrub or formed hedge.   If left to grow larger it will provide wonderful roosting spots for the birds.  Birds love to feed on the black berries in autumn.   

There is only one main variety of Broadleaf naturally being Griselinea littoralis, this is can be quite varied depending on where it is sourced.   We prefer to grow smaller leaved alpine forms from the South Island as they are tough, resiliant and look fantastic!   

There are a few cultivars derived from Griselinea littoralis including Griselinea Broadway Mint, Griselinea Twilight (aka Griselinea Canterbury) and a few variegated forms.   All of these are suitable for birds.

...more about Broadleaf

aristotelia hybrids nz native wineberry

Wineberry (aristotelia sp) - there are two natural forms of Wineberry in New Zealand.  The larger tree Aristotelia serrata, known as the forest Wineberry and the shrubby mountain Wineberry, Aristotelia fruticosa.  These have naturally cross bred to provide a range of beautiful shrubby hybrids.  All of these produce masses of berries that are much loved by birds, and a great way to bring birds into the garden.

... more about Wineberry

All these native plants are great for birds, and there are many more.  The best approach is to go for a wide and diverse range of native trees, shrubs and flaxes  and the birds will naturally come.  

A great, no fuss way to begin is with one of our bird lovers combos.  These are a good selection of natives that are great for birds.  We also select only tough varieties to go in our combo, so they pretty good plants for almost any situation. 



Check out this beautiful video showcasing New Zealand's birds

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