Garden Birds

WuHoo Colourful Fact Sheets Introduced Birds 200403

Colourful Facts Birds - Complex.pdf
Colourful Facts Birds - Simple.pdf

WuHoo Challenge

Colour in the garden birds colouring sheet.

Colourful Facts Birds - Complex.pdf
Colourful Facts Birds - Simple.pdf


  • Make your backyard safe for birds.
  • Plant native plants in your garden to attract birds and insects.
  • Keep a saucer of water topped up in the garden with sugar water.
  • Think about the pesticides that you use in your garden.


Bird History

Early European arrivals in South Canterbury wrote of the prolific and varied bird life they found in forests, swamp, lagoon and plains. The introduction of old birds to a new country and new activities on the land destroyed the balance of nature essential to their existence.

E C Studholme, a great student of birdlife in Waimate District, once reflected on the evening chorus of hundreds of weka and the hair-raising clatter of laughing petrels that would come in from the sea in the evening to their nesting places in the Waimate Hills. John McCaw from the Hakataramea area said that paradise ducks would come in their thousands in the days when grain was harvested with a reaper, growing fat from the fallen grain among the stubble. Parakeets and kaka were once plentiful in the wooded regions of South Canterbury with 1878 and 1879 newspapers reporting great flocks of these birds invading Kakahu and Temuka districts, eating all the flower buds from the fruit trees and completely destroying a seasons crop. Tuis until the beginning of the 1900s were commonly seen and weka were once so plentiful that it was regarded around homesteads and camps as a pest due to its mischevious thieving nature.

Since that time many birds such as the native quail, parakeets and laughing owl have become extinct while many other natives have become absent from the region like the Weka and Kaka. Many others still have been heavily reduced in numbers. A wide range of changes have devastated the birdlife including widespread fires used to clear land, reduction in habitat including swamp and lagoon drainage, pest predator introduction, competition from introduced bird species, poisoning or hunting. One of the worst pests in the 1880s was the rabbit and sadly in an attempt to control rabbits, stoats, weasels and ferrets were imported (at great cost and with great difficulty). While these predators would have killed some rabbits they unfortunately took a liking to the eggs of both native and introduced species devastating many populations.


The transformation of Canterbury into something resembling an overseas England was not complete for the earliest arrivals without the sight and sound of birds and animals which had been familiar to them in the Homeland.
Such birds, insects and animals were introduced slowly and initially with great difficulty. Most of them died on the boat journey, often when passing through the heat of the tropics.
Finally, most hedge and field birds, as well as deer for the high country and freshwater fish for recreational fishing were all successfully established.
Until 1867 when legislation first began to protect both native and introduced game the shooting and destruction of both was unlimited.
Ship captains were in charge of importing the birds, but had little knowledge of how to keep them alive leading to many failures. George Rhodes was once of the first recorded success stories when he bought out blackbirds and other hedge birds in 1861. Such was the interest in this arrivals, that when the blackbirds later had a brood it was reported in the newspapers.
While there were isolated instances of importing birds directly into South Canterbury most early birds bought into the origin were obtained from the Canterbury Acclimation Society set up in Christchurch in 1864.
The South Canterbury Acclimatisation, which began as the Timaru Game Society, was not formed until 1874. By that time however, many imported birds had been established by private runholders and other private individuals.
The story of introduced birds in South Canterbury however has been a rollercoaster of sentiment and fortunes. This is best illustrated by talking about the sparrow.
The sparrow was first welcomed wholeheartedly to New Zealand and was imported and released both privately and by acclimatisation societies in South Canterbury in the 1860s and 1870s. This was both as a friendly reminder of homelife in England and also as a means of controlling insect pest on cropping land as there were no pesticides then. The birds were imported with great difficulty and cost as with other introduced animals.
Sparrows increased rapidly throughout the region and at first carried out their desired pest control role to the delight of the locals. The insects they were catching had had devastating effect on crop yields affecting food supply and economic value of farming.

Sparrows eventually though, increased to such numbers that they were thought to be contributing to the destruction of the very grain fields they were there to protect.
By 1880, they had become such a nuisance that the government was urged to take action. The Small Birds Nuisances Act (1882) enabled local bodies to spend a proportion of their revenue on the destruction of pests and at the same time it was stated farmers were willing to pay rates towards the destruction of sparrows.
The Waimate District Sparrow Club was formed in 1882 and at its first meeting stated “ unless small birds were destroyed farmers would be unable to live in the district”. Farmers formed similar clubs all across the region.
Poisoned grain was used to kill sparrows, thrushes and blackbirds and young boys had the jobs of collecting the dead birds from the fields.
These measures apparently had very little effect on overall bird numbers as figures 10 years later suggested in increase in numbers of these species.
The Council then employed someone to deliver fulltime poisoned grain by cart to farms.
In more recent times (1950s) the small bird problem has more naturally adjusted itself. It is now generally admitted that sparrows and other small birds, despite stealing grain crops, destroy immense numbers of caterpillars and grubs and assist in keeping nature in balance for the farmer. An in Australia around this time it had gone full circle and farmers were being encouraged to plant hedge rows to attract these birds to their farms.



Endemic: A native species that is only found in a particular area either large or small. For example a bird can be endemic to New Zealand (only found in nz) or even a native New Zealand bird could be endemic to one location e.g. the South Island. This means these birds evolved in New Zealand and breed and occur naturally only in this country. Endemics include bellbirds, kakapo, kereru, kiwi, takahe and tui.

Native: Those that naturally occur in New Zealand. In addition to endemics, the include species that also exist in other countries. Under this definition any bird that naturally finds its way to New Zealand and then establishes a sustainable population can be called native. For example the Welcome Swallow self-introduced to New Zealand by flying over from Australia in the mid 20th century and has lived here abundantly ever since. Kingfishers, fantails, silvereye’s, pukekos are all native species that have self introduced.

Introduced: Birds that humans have either intentionally or unintentionally brought to New Zealand. Includes blackbirds, sparrows, mallard ducks, Californian Quails, starlings, finches.
Some strange examples: what about the Black Swan? The swan was deliberately introduced by the Canterbury Acclimatisation society and swans found their way to South Canterbury in the late 1870s. It is also thought they were present in pre-european New Zealand but largely absent by the time pioneers arrived. It is also thought that some populations still establish here after self-introduction (by flying across from Australia)?




Keep birds safe

Make sure your backyard is a safe place for them to visit.

  • Set traps to control introduced predators like rats, stoats, and possums.
  • Keep your cat inside, particularly at night.
  • Put any feed stations well out of reach of introduced predators.
  • Clean your feeder regularly to avoid the spread of disease.
  • Provide water, particularly in summer, so birds are able to stay hydrated.

Plant native plants: Native plants and shrubs are the best way to attract native birds to your garden. Try growing species that provide nectar, seeds, and berries all year-round so birds always have food available to them.

Leaf litter: When leaves fall off your plants and shrubs, do not pick them up or relocate them. Over time, a thick layer of mulch will build up. This boosts insect populations, which provides a great food source for insectivorous birds.

Fruit: Try hammering some nails into a board and securing pieces of fruit to the table. Half-cut oranges, apples, and pears can attract tauhou (silvereyes), korimako (bellbird), and tūī, as well as kākā and hihi if they are present.

Sugar water: Sugar water is a great supplementary food for nectar-loving birds like tūī, korimako (bellbirds), and kākā. To make sugar solution, dissolve half a cup of sugar in four cups of water. The best sugar to water ratio is 1:8. Anything higher may attract bees and wasps or start to ferment more quickly. You can leave sugar water in a shallow dish or make a feeder using household items. To make a sugar feeder, take a one-litre milk bottle and attach the lid to a shallow dish or jar lid. Fill the milk bottle with sugar water and make a few small holes about half a centimetre from the bottom of the bottle. Screw it into the lid and turn the dish upside down. Sugar solution will come out of the bottle and fill the dish to the height of the holes.