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The value of birds

Most of us value having birds in and around our garden. Their songs are always welcome and seeing them and their recent fledglings in springtime is fascinating in its own right. In fact, seeing and hearing birds has measureable aesthetic and health benefits. They are part of ‘a dose of nature’, as is a walk in natural areas. Medical science has now recognised that birds in their environment contribute measurably to human health including a sense of calm.

Also, birds are important as environmental indicators, so if their numbers decline it raises an alarm that not all is well in our natural and semi-natural environment. For example, based on the work by Eric Spurr and colleagues at Landcare Research, it appears that some ‘common’ NZ bird species have declined in number over the past 10 years (1). These declines mimic many global trends, especially in Europe (2).

  1. Landcare Research. Garden bird survey: https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/science/plants-animals-fungi/animals/birds/garden-bird-surveys/taking-part
  2. Wratten SD (2017). The Lark Descending: are non-native birds undervalued in New Zealand? The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/the-lark-descending-are-non-native-birds-undervalued-in-new-zealand-79509
  3. Robertson H and Heather B (2015). Hand Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. Penguin Books. https://www.penguin.co.nz/books/the-hand-guide-to-the-birds-of-new-zealand-9780143570936

Project 1

Counting your birds

If you can see most of your garden from one spot, record the number of individuals of each species which you see or hear during a 10-minute period. If you cannot see the whole area, walk around it very slowly over the same period, recording what you see.

Project 2

Even better, follow the instructions in the Landcare Research website (1) mentioned above and contribute to the national scheme. The best bird guide for you to use if you are unsure of naming your garden birds is the Hand Guide to the Birds of New Zealand (3).

Project 3

How Does Your Garden Grow Kit

This unique kit is based on research carried out in the Bio-Protection Research Centre at Lincoln University in association with the BHU Organics Trust and Kings Seeds. The kit will help you to discover a number of important things such as the acidity of your soil (slightly acid for potatoes, slightly alkaline for brassicas) and how to attract bees to your crops and ladybirds to eat your pests.

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