Go native in the garden

What should you plant this spring to attract native birds? These seven species will get them flocking to the garden.


It’s said that when Captain Cook first anchored off the New Zealand coastline, the dawn chorus was deafening. Undoubtedly, this abundance of birdlife was linked to an abundance of native vegetation.

There is a harmonious partnership between New Zealand’s native plants and its birds. Plants provide shelter as well as foliage, nectar and berries for the birds, who in turn spread seeds in their droppings.

While things may be bit quieter than they were in Captain Cook’s day, there’s no reason you can’t create your own dawn chorus by choosing natives when planting your garden.

Why Native Is Best

The most appealing thing about growing native plants is that they are the easy option. They are, after all, native. Choose species that you know thrive in your region and they will adapt to the conditions perfectly. You could source seeds or cuttings from neighbours for a quick start. Then watch your garden flourish as our feathered friends drop by for a meal of nectar and berries or even the insects, mites and lizards that make their home amongst the greenery.


Here are seven excellent native plant options that will bring the birds flocking.

An iconic Kiwi native that the birds adore. Plant a kowhai in the backyard and watch the kererū, tūis and bellbirds flock in search of the delicious nectar found on the bright yellow flowers.

Ti Kouka (Cabbage Tree)
The distinctive cabbage tree provides a feast for birds who love its cream-coloured flowers, berries and nectar. Just make sure you leave plenty of room, these trees can reach heights of up to 20 metres.

Makomako (Wineberry)
Wineberry is a quick-growing shrub which develops pink flowers in spring and deep red fruit in summer. Loved by a whole range of native New Zealand birds, this is a shrub that is sure to have your garden alive with the sounds of birdsong in no time.

Harakeke (New Zealand Flax)
If you love tūis, then you will love flax. The boisterous tūi are often found feasting on the bright red flax flowers. A hardy plant, offering many varieties found throughout New Zealand.

Kōtukutuku (Tree Fuchsia)
Abundant with rich, red fruit, fuchsia can reach heights of up to 12 metres in the wild. It’s unlikely to reach this size in your garden, but its fruit and berries are sure to bring in honey-eating birds, like tūī, bellbirds and silvereyes.

Low-growing and an enduring favourite, birds can’t get enough of this attractive shrub. As well as providing delicious flowers, hebes are often a haven of insects bringing in the bellbirds, fantails and silvereyes.

Coprosmas produce a literal smorgasbord for our native birds. With berries, flowers and insects to feast on, you are sure to find birds wherever you find coprosma.



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