Superb Blue Wrens visiting

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firefish58@hotmail.com's picture
Superb Blue Wrens visiting

HI all

this is my first time at posting here so bear with my plz.. I have lots of native plants in my garden and naturally also have water for the birds. lately for the first time ever i have had a small group of bright and cheery superb blue wrens visiting.  today for the first time they used the bird bath, well it was the first time id caught them lol.  question i have is what can i do to make the garden even more enticing so they will stay.

also Ive never been one for leaving out seeds fruits and was wondering what other peoples thoughts were on leaving out extras for birds and what is a good mixture to set out.

I get a few rosella species and of course the lorikeets, wattlebirds, newengland honeyeaters, sulphur crested cockatoos, black cockatoos frequent the neighbour hood but too date have not been able to entice them, ill have to dig up some photos ive taken over the years,  these are just a few of the birds we have spotted in the yard

julie

dwatsonbb
dwatsonbb's picture

Hi Julie and welcome. Could you also let us know where you are from? Others will offer, advice more than I can about planting for attracting native birds, the Superb Fairy Wrens will like thickish shrubs, preferably natives. We have some that have made nests in thick sticky type weeds, that I was too slow to remove before spring and another pair that nested in a well established pencil pine. The misses won't let me replace the pine, and I agree, although it is not native, it stands about 5 meters high, and has nests for at least 2 different species (superb fairies and new holland honey eaters).
The consensus among most if not all here, will be to let the birds find food for themselves, and not to artificially supply food, which only encourages them to become reliant on human input

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

GregL
GregL's picture

Blue wrens are attracted to gardens, the more gardening you do the more they like it. They like compost heaps and clearings with shrubs around to perch on. They nest close to the ground so lots of long grass, perennials  and low shrubs. If you are digging in the garden they can learn to come around for the worms and insects you disturb, and of course the more leaf litter, compost and manure in your soil the better because a richer soil has more food for ground-feeding birds. 

timmo
timmo's picture

Hi Julie and welcome,

As far as providing an environment for Blue Wrens, from my own experience, most wrens I've seen have been in areas where there is thick long grass (about 1m high) for them to nest and hide in. I have also read lots of suggestions that dense prickly shrubs are good for providing cover from larger, more aggressive (and possibly less mobile) birds.

In terms of providing food for birds, that seems to be a really divisive issue. The tendency among "conservation-minded" folk in Oz seems to be "don't feed them", though as one of my lecturers in environmental management pointed out, there are very different attitudes elsewhere (e.g. UK), little evidence for or against it, and given the major changes we have made to their environment in other ways, perhaps feeding may not be that big an issue.

However, there is some evidence that feeding can contribute to transmission of diseases between birds. Generally, I'd say if the birds are there already then there is probably food around for them, and the best thing you can do is improve the habitat and plant endemic species. Providing water sources around for bathing and drinking is also something that will help the birds.

Good luck and have fun!

Cheers
Tim
Brisbane

Woko
Woko's picture

Here are a few more thoughts on attracting superb fairy-wrens to your garden, Julie:

Try to replicate in your garden what you see in the bushland where the fairy-wrens naturally exist. This means planting or allowing to regenerate the indigenous vegetation of your area. Visit you nearest patch of bushland & observe where the superb fairy-wrens frequent. Check the plant species & structure of the vegetation (height, density, openness) & try to create this in your own garden.

Avoid trying to attract superb fairy-wrens specifically because this may disadvantage other species.

Generally, as Greg posted, as well as having lots of dense vegetation for cover & breeding places, provide open spaces near the dense cover. This is where you'll often find superb fairy-wrens foraging for insects.

Personally, but depending on where you live, I'd avoid the manure in the garden as most Australian plants are adapted to nutrient poor soils. Over millions of years the nutrients have been leeched from our soils which is why food producers are prone to pouring on the poo in order to get their crops to grow.

Leaf litter will provide a natural environment for not only superb fairy-wrens but other terrestrial birds too, so ensure your garden is untidy. Slowly rotting native litter will attract the insects preferred by superb fairy-wrens. A natural insect a day keeps the vet far away.

If you have non-indigenous vegetation which is providing habitat for the superb fairy-wrens avoid removing it all at once. Rather, gradually replace it with indigenous vegetation so that the fairy-wrens can slowly move to their new homes instead of suddenly finding themselves bereft of accommodation.

Superb fairy-wrens prefer water that is very shallow. I have a couple of bowls that were once bases for pots & the superb fairy-wrens prefer those to the deeper bird bath.

Keep the water fresh. Like nature abhorring a vacuum, superb fairy-wrens abhor dirty water. You'll find that other birds, too, like silver eyes, will prefer the more shallow water.

Place the bowls in an area with dappled shade. Birds avoid bathing in hot water even if it is solar heated.

Don't artificially feed the fairy-wrens. They've spent millions of years working out what food is healthiest & it's pretentious of humans to say they know what's best for them. In any case, once you've replicated their natural environment the amount of natural food available will increase & you won't need to artificially feed them.

Discourage all cats, including the ones the neighbours say never eat birds.

firefish58@hotm...
firefish58@hotmail.com's picture

Me again lol   ok I live in shellharbour which is cojoined to Wollongong. Ive often seen fairy wrens out at bass point (a local scuba site) so knew they were not far away.  Recently there has been a massive about of land sales and building in the area and i guess a lot of habitat has been disturbed.  last year i shattered the tibial plateau and was not allowed to manouvre much lol and work was out of the question for a while so i got a lot of time to watch the birds in the trees out the back door and i got the other half to move the birdbath so i could see the visitors.

I knew the wrens were around been hearing them for about two weeks. but hadnt spotted them. now they are there all the time it seems.   I have a real thick slightly prickly grevillea that they spend lot of time around but even more so they are amongst the lower branches and ground of a grevillea 'Moonlight'.

I could hear the wrens again just on dusk so as i have been doing stuck my nose out the door to see what they were up to.  To my surprise there was amongst the other inhabitants of the yard a rather large black bird sitting in the small gum tree out back. at first i thought an odd coloured magpie? so i dragged out mr cayleys what bird is that and found that it was a Pied Currawong. So lets add another first to the garden cause ive never seen a currawong out there before

talk to you soon

Julie

Woko
Woko's picture

It's always a delight to see a new species, Julie. Your garden may well be a haven from the developers. Hopefully, all those new homeowners will be restoring habitat like crazy when they move into their new abodes.

GregL
GregL's picture

Woko wrote:

Personally, but depending on where you live, I'd avoid the manure in the garden as most Australian plants are adapted to nutrient poor soils. Over millions of years the nutrients have been leeched from our soils which is why food producers are prone to pouring on the poo in order to get their crops to grow.

Leaf litter will provide a natural environment for not only superb fairy-wrens but other terrestrial birds too, so ensure your garden is untidy. Slowly rotting native litter will attract the insects preferred by superb fairy-wrens. A natural insect a day keeps the vet far away.

Native soils were actually much more nutrient rich before settlement than they are now. Our soils have been degraded, the nutrient cycles have been interrupted and the organic matter lost. If you want to return soil to it's native state you need to add fertiliser and lots of compost, generally it is better to add fertiliser in the form of composted manure rather chemical fertiliser, but if you don't fertilise your soil it will take centuries for the soil to recover to near what it was before agriculture. Wrens feed on small invertebrates near or on the soil, if you have more vegetation growth you get more food for birds. Growing your garden in impoverished soil won't help the birds at all.

Woko
Woko's picture

I'm surprised to read this, Greg. What was taught in horticulture & natural resources management at Mt Barker TAFE College in SA varies considerably from the view you've put. I'd be interested in looking at any references you might have to support your notion about Australia's original soils being nutrient rich presumably prior to white settlement. I may have to review what I've understood for years to be the case.

Where I live (s.e. slopes of Mt Lofty Ranges) the indigenous vegetation Ms Woko & I have planted has survived extremely well in what are reported to be extremely nutrient poor soils which have never been used for agriculture (the land is far too rocky due to long-term soil erosion from the hills face exposing veins of rock). In fact, our farmer neighbour is applying a new organic method of providing nutrients to his pasture which he surely wouldn't need to do if his soil was nutrient rich, never having been subjected to agriculture.

Our largely planted scrub provides excellent habitat for a wide range of bird species. Including migrants, vagrants & ferals I've counted over 130 species here. A week ago I counted 52 superb fairy-wrens on our patch, a record in the 25 years we've been here. Combined with the absence of agriculture to degrade the soil I would have thought that all this is evidence that the native vegetation here is well adapted to original, nutrient-poor soils.  

Your thoughts?

GregL
GregL's picture

I don't know if you misquoted me on purpose or by accident, I said more nutrient rich not nutrient rich. There is an abundance of scientific papers in the soil science area on the loss of organic matter in soils after grazing and tilling, when you say never used for agriculture are you including grazing and clearing as well as ploughing? When the organic matter is lost the ability of the soil to hold nutrients and water is reduced, combined with the interruption to the nutrient cycle caused by erosion this means that the soil becomes less nutrient rich. In most disturbed areas it is very difficult to know what the original vegetation was, the new vegetation mix changes to species more tolerant of the new low nutrient status. Of course I am generalising, the problem of soil degredation is worse in some areas than others.

I think that advice not to fertilise soil is very counterproductive, whether you intend a native or exotic garden.

GregL
GregL's picture

Keep in mind Woko that this is a thread about how to entice birds to a garden, not a bush regeneration thread, which you seem to want to turn most threads into. If you want a low-nutrient boock, fine, but a backyard low in nutrients is unlikely to attract many birds when all the neighbours are using fertiliser. The birds won't see how worthy and environmentally friendly you are trying to be, they will go to the place with the most food.

Woko
Woko's picture

Hi Greg. Perhaps it's a matter of degree when we talk about "nutrient rich" but when you wrote "much more nutrient rich" before settlement I think I could be forgiven for thinking that you were referring to Australia's soils pre-settlement being nutrient rich. However, "Soils are generally poor because the land surfaces of the continent [Australia] are covered by old and weathered soils low in nutrients which have been lost through leaching." *

I agree with your contention about the loss of organic matter due to grazing & tilling. Over-grazing, particularly, & constant tilling have destroyed ground cover & soil structure resulting in massive wind & water erosion & thereby loss of nutrients. Hence we now see a move towards minimum tillage in order to preserve soil structure & organic material. When I was referring to agriculture I was referring largely to non-grazing activities.

I also agree with you that where there is disturbance, especially large scale, intensive bush & forest clearance, it's difficult to know what used to grow naturally. As I've previously argued (& for which I make no apology) the massive destruction of Australia's natural habitats since settlement means that if we're to provide the best opportunity for our bird & other wildlife to survive, we need to replicate as closely as possible what used to exist. Of course, this is much easier on larger pieces of land but nevertheless there are opportunities for people in suburban areas to do likewise in their own backyards on whatever scale they can manage.

Plants adapted to low nutrient soils are more likely to survive & thrive in low nutrient soils in backyards, I would have thought. So if a gardener lives in an area where low nutrient soils were the go he/she is surely more likely to attract local birds to local plants that grow in local-type soils. For this reason, in many parts of Australia there is a strong argument, I believe, for allowing rain to leach artificially-applied nutrients from the soil for a few years before planting a garden of indigenous plants.

* Harry F. Recher in A Natural Legacy: Ecology in Australia 2nd edition p 17. Harry F. Recher, Daniel Lunney & Irina Dunn eds.

darinnightowl
darinnightowl's picture

This thread is about bird friendly gardening, so it should be about bird friendly gardening. I support any means to entice birds etc. to my garden.
If you want your land to be like pre-settlement with native vegetation that's fine.  Go the whole way , take away the bird bath and let the water come and go.  After all Australia is a dry country and South Australia is the driest state, just like pre-settlement.  If not,  you're only kidding yourself!  Or maybe it's just self gratification.  It is your choice after all.... 

See it!  Hear it!

Mid-North Coast NSW

firefish58@hotm...
firefish58@hotmail.com's picture

Yep had already decided that if the birds were happy enough with what i have on offer then thats ok by me. they like the big deep bird bath, they like the weeds under the grevilleas, they like hopping around in the grevilleas, while it would be nice to revert to the presettlement days and have a naturale garden we now live in the 21st century not the 18/19th.  I appreciate all the advice offered but realistically im just an amateur backyard gardener with a stuffed knee that makes it exceptionally hard to bend down to ground level and do much digging  - and just wanted a few pointers on what other plants i should use.

Woko
Woko's picture

Not good about your knee & the limits it imposes on you, Julie, but it's great that you're attracting native birds to your garden.

Holly
Holly's picture

<a href="mailto:firefish58@hotmail.com">firefish58@hotmail.com</a> wrote:

 

Yep had already decided that if the birds were happy enough with what i have on offer then thats ok by me. they like the big deep bird bath, they like the weeds under the grevilleas, they like hopping around in the grevilleas, while it would be nice to revert to the presettlement days and have a naturale garden we now live in the 21st century not the 18/19th.  I appreciate all the advice offered but realistically im just an amateur backyard gardener with a stuffed knee that makes it exceptionally hard to bend down to ground level and do much digging  - and just wanted a few pointers on what other plants i should use.

 

Sorry I didn't see this till now but it sounds like you are on the right track. I totally agreed - reverting back and regenerating the locally native vege is wonderful and it would be great if that was possible to do everywhere, but in a suburban setting, putting in some native plants - locally native if possible, is a brilliant thing that you can do and that is what is realistic for most people - and there is nothing wrong with it. They will love the bird bath too - the little guys seem to love the deep baths - pop a brick or something in there just in case they take a tumble.

 

If you email me your local council area I can give you some locally native plant options and see if I can find out where you can get them from: birdsinbackyards@birdlife.org.au

jenni_1
jenni_1's picture

Hi,

just wanted to add we too have Blue Wrens nesting in Pencil Pines in Hamilton Victoria. They also frequent a garden with Silver Birch and other non natives. There are plenty of native trees here too and i've been surprised to see how many small birds are happily living in the deciduous trees. We have been here since December. 

Woko
Woko's picture

Hi Jenni. That's marvellous that you have a range of native birds using non-natives. Because of all the bushland & forests clearance still being encouraged in Australia they need all the help they can get.

A number of our native birds have exploited human-altered landscapes. Rainbow Lorikeets frequent the Chinese Elms in the main street of Mt Barker in SA, Australian Magpies find food in the lawns of our towns & cities, Peregrine Falcons nest on high window ledges in Melbourne, Striated Pardalotes have raised a family in the air brick of a bank & Galahs feed on spilled grain at silos. And as you've found, Fairywrens nest in pencil pines.

However, there are many native birds which are far more specific in their requirements. Mistletoe Birds feed mainly on Mistletoe berries, most of our small native birds require cat-free environments, Diamond Firetails feed on grass seeds, particularly native grass seeds,  Lorikeets nest in tree hollows & Spotted Nightjars require understorey litter, largely from Eucalypts, for protection.  

You might be interested to know that when Ms Woko & I first arrived on our piece of what was then mostly horse grazing land, we counted 17 native bird species. Having embarked on revegetation with local species & encouraged natural regeneration of native understorey, thirty years later we have counted 141 species, 8 of which are introduced & 3 of which took advantage of exceptionally wet conditions in 1993.

While introduced plants provide habitat for some native birds it's important to remember that over millions of years our native birds have evolved with wonderfully complex communities of plants which are impossible to replicate exactly once they're destroyed by human action. To maximise the diversity of native bird life it's important to try to replicate as closely as possible &  wherever possible what used to exist rather than persist with the plants which Europeans & others have brought to Australia. Appreciation, preservation & restoration of our complex ecologies are important steps in preserving our fast-disappearing native birdlife.

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