I love to sit at my dining table and look out at the birds in the garden: blackbirds and thrushes strutting around on the lawn, pausing and listening, and then homing in on the worms; fantails flitting from branch to branch searching for insects; and in spring tuis feasting on kowhai and flax flowers. From my kitchen bench I can see tiny wax-eyes searching for insects around the camellias.
I throw out my crusts on to the lawn and hope some of the smaller birds get there first before the mynas and starlings bully their way in. Recently I have been entertained by 30 or more birds fighting over one crust and then just a few meters away a solitary wax-eye feasting on another crust, eating as much as it can before the others realise.
In the winter I put out birdseed for them. Initially I filled the container right up thinking that it would keep them going all week. But the sparrows in my area can drain the whole thing in less than a day! I have visions of the SPCA calling around because of the alarming incidence of obese sparrows in my area. So now I just put a small amount of birdseed out once or twice a week. Very occasionally I see a finch or two, but mostly it is visited by my well-fed sparrows.
This winter I decided to try ‘wild bird energy truffles’ – balls made of vegetable fat, peanut flour and wheat flour. I was delighted to see that a wider range of birds come in for this treat – the wax-eyes will fight their way in through the bigger birds and have an advantage at the end when there is just a little piece left in the middle of the hanger. Even the lace-necked doves wait patiently to pick up the bits that drop on the ground.
At one point I put out both the birdseed and the truffles to see which they’d prefer. The sparrows didn’t care – it was a veritable orgy in the garden with birds fluttering around fighting for space and waiting on almost every available branch for a turn of the action.
I will indulge them over the winter but in summer the battle for my fruit will begin again in earnest.