Tips on creating a bird-friendly garden

Creating a bird-friendly garden is easier than ever thanks to the inspirational guide Garden Birds in Southern Africa, by Duncan Butchart, R230, (Penguin Randomhouse).

Duncan Butchart is a keen observer of the natural world and has worked as an illustrator, writer and ecotourism consultant. He has worked in 11 African countries and travelled extensively worldwide, writing articles on the birds and other wildlife of Australia, Borneo, Thailand, Costa Rica, Peru, Brazil and India. An enthusiastic gardener, Duncan Butchard has created inviting spaces for birds – and other wildlife – where he’s lived in Johannesburg, Nelspruit and Hermanus.  

Here’s his top tips on turning your urban garden into a reservoir of biodiversity:

  • Grow as many plants native to your immediate surroundings as possible; these plants evolved in partnership with the invertebrates that form the basis of the food pyramid for birds and other larger creatures.
  • Never use insecticides or pesticides that destroy invertebrates and micro-organisms that feed birds and other wildlife.
  • Allow leaf-litter to accumulate; this provides a refuge for invertebrates and retains soil moisture.
  • Do not over-illuminate your property after dark. Bright lights lure and kill nocturnal insects. We do need some lights for security but the idea is to keep it to a minimum.
  • Create as many micro-habitats as possible in your garden, such as rotting logs, rockeries, earth banks and stone walls.
  • A natural water feature will provide habitat for dragonflies and other aquatic wildlife.
  • Cultivate flowering plants that are particularly attractive to butterflies and bees, even if they do not occur naturally in your area.
  • Do not allow invasive alien plants to grow on your property – their seeds will be transported further afield by the wind or by birds.
  • Place a floating log or other object in your swimming pool to reduce numbers of drowned insects, reptiles and other wildlife; always put swimming pool lights off when not necessary.
  • Encourage your neighbours to follow your example and extend the size of biodiversity reservoirs.

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