Birds eat a very diverse range of foods including: nectar; grass and leafy material; berries, fruit or seeds; insects and their larvae, worms and similar invertebrates; reptiles and small mammals; other birds; or a combination of these. They may also eat food scraps and pet food left in the garden.
Some birds move around, sometimes over great distances, to find sources of nectar. Examples of such birds are Swift Parrots, and Regent Honeyeaters. These are very welcome, but very rare visitors in Canberra gardens.
Other birds eat a wider range of foods. For example, the Red Wattlebird feeds on nectar, being particularly attracted to banksias, but will also feed on insects. This flexibility allows Red Wattlebirds to overwinter in Canberra in relatively large numbers. Birds can be encouraged to a garden in winter by species that flower in winter when other food is scarce. Many banksias fit into this category.
A wide range of food-producing plants makes a garden attractive to many different birds. Canberra’s suburban gardens and urban parks have a wide range of non-native plants, some of which are welcome food sources for many birds. Some non-natives attract common berry- and seed-eating birds such as Crimson Rosellas, Silvereyes, Pied Currawongs and Common Starlings. However, most are not recommended for planting, because birds may spread the seeds to native bushland where exotic plants do become serious environmental weeds. Such undesirable plants include cotoneaster, firethorn, privet, crab-apple, rowan, ornamental plum and hawthorn. Pied Currawongs now have large permanent urban populations in Canberra; during colder months, they feed predominantly on exotic berries, spreading the seeds into natural areas. During the breeding season Pied Currawongs take nestlings of many species of small birds and are a serious predator, along with cats.
- Many of the fruit trees in Canberra gardens are particularly attractive to parrots, currawongs, silvereyes and starlings. Gardeners might be upset by damage to fruit or flowers (sometimes cockatoos and parrots can be particularly destructive), but fruit trees provide an excellent opportunity