Rob and I have been feeding birds in our garden for years – a pastime that has given us both so much pleasure and the opportunity to observe the local avian communities closely. In Namibia, where we lived for almost seven years, the birds were extremely colourful and the variety was staggering. Here in our new hometown of Knysna in the Western Cape, we have continued to feed them. Although not as brightly coloured as their Namibian cousins, the birds here are plentiful and word has spread that there is a constant source of food for them in our yard. We’ve now added a nectar feeder to the menu to attract those birds that prefer liquid nourishment.
It took all of ten minutes after hanging the bottle up outside our kitchen window for our first guest to arrive. Since then we’ve had a steady stream of birds eager to sip the sweet water. If you can get your hands on a good nectar feeder you will have a wonderful time watching the antics of the birds as they vie for position.
I particularly like watching the Speckled mousebirds that clamber on, sometimes six at a time. Some sunbirds can be quite territorial and chase away anyone small enough to be intimidated by them. At the moment we are enjoying a wide variety of birds, as can be seen from the photos in this blog.
The formula for the feeder is 600ml of water to which a third of a cup of brown sugar has been added. After stirring well we add a few drops of food colouring to give the liquid a nice red colour.
I must warn you not to add any aritificial sweeteners to your water. A while back someone who lived near Hermanus inadvertently (and tragically) killed about thirty Cape sugarbirds (Promerops cafer) when it was found that the sugar in his nectar solution contained Xylitol, which is deadly to birds and some animals. The nectar found naturally in flowers usually contains either fructose, glucose or sucrose. Some garden and pet shops sell the nectar solution, but it’s expensive, so it is easier to make it at home. Please just make sure that your food colouring does not contain any artificial sweeteners.
I’m not sure if this method of feeding birds is harmful to the environment (I sincerely hope not), as birds do a marvelous job of pollination when they flit from flower to flower to sip nectar. We have noticed that in spite of our bottle of nectar, the days when our hedges and garden flowers are blooming, the birds go au natural and don’t spend as much time at our bottle as usual. When the flowers die off they come back. Perhaps readers could comment on this aspect – it would be interesting to hear other opinions.
Obviously I can’t show photos of all the birds that come to the feeder, but the list we’ve had so far is as follows : Cape white-eyes, Black-headed orioles, Speckled mousebirds, Amethyst sunbirds, Southern and Greater double-collared sunbirds, Fork-tailed drongos, Cape bulbuls and a variety of weavers.