Creating a bird friendly garden for Black Cockatoos

Bird attracting plants in Perth

With one of the major causes of the decline of black cockatoo numbers being habitat loss, one way for everyone to help is to set up their gardens to be bird friendly. Having native plants in your backyard can provide black cockatoos and other local wildlife with food and habitat that supports the natural ecosystem in your area. Black cockatoos in particular rely on vegetation, as their diet consists almost entirely of seeds, nuts and cones, so native species are the way to go. With all gardens, it is important to have as large a variety as possible of plants to increase biodiversity and encourage the many species to visit your space.

Bird attracting native plants for small backyards

While it can often be difficult to create a full garden when you have a small amount of space to work in, there are a number of tricks that can be used to make the most of your limited space. Include a number of different types of sizes of plants in your garden, such as shrubs, ground covers, tufty plants and small trees. Flowering plants like kangaroo paws and grevilleas add colour and depth to a small area and attract insects for birds to feed on. Use a variety of different textures and colours in the foliage and break up the space with gravel, mulch or stepping stones. Don’t be afraid to plant close together but prune regularly to keep everything healthy and controlled.

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Bird attracting native plants for medium and large backyards

Medium backyards provide an opportunity to experiment with a larger variety of plants, colours and structures. Try to include at least one tree in the space, as they provide shade, food and protection for native wildlife. Bull or Holly Leaf Banksias are an excellent choice due to their beautiful flowers and they are an excellent food source for black cockatoos. Other native favourites include the Lesser Bottlebrush and Hakea varieties.

Black Cockatoo and bird attracting native plants for large properties

On large properties in rural areas, it is possible to have large quantities of bigger trees, which is where black cockatoos will create nests and roost at night. The Marri tree (Corymbia calophylla), Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginate) and the Swan River Blackbutt (Eucalyptus patens) are all ideal as they provide fruit and seeds for the birds to feed on, as well as being large enough to provide roosting spaces.

White Tailed Black Cockatoo feeding on a marri tree

How to design a bird friendly garden

There are several key aspects to creating a bird friendly garden besides the plants themselves. It is important to set up a strong base for your plants to thrive in. If you’re using plants native to the area then there is generally very little preparation required. Keep the area free of weeds, loosen the soil and add a little low phosphorous organic fertiliser (look for native plant fertiliser) as required. Make sure the soil is well drained and apply mulch to retain moisture.

For other non-local native plants, there may be a little more preparation required including adding improved soil and regular fertiliser. Many weed killers can be quite toxic, and spraying lawns can lead to a run-off that allows the weed killer to enter the natural waterways. Avoid spraying the lawn and wherever possible use natural non-harmful options for weed control.

Finally, it is important for wildlife to have a source of drinking water, which you can provide through a bird bath or a pond in your garden. Remember to refill these regularly and keep the water clean.

Where to buy native plants in Perth? Our top picks.

There are a number of places across the Perth region that stock quite a variety of bird friendly options. Some of our favourites include Zanthorrea located in Maida Vale, Muchea Tree Farm and the Australian Native Nursery in Oakford. When starting out, check out your local nursery to find out what is available and get some specific advice.

Tubestocks for large areas and smaller budgets

An option that is growing in popularity is tubestock planting, which involves buying smaller plants in bulk. This is a great choice when planting larger gardens on a tighter budget and can provide a greater choice of natives. Just be sure to dig a big hole before planting so they can establish themselves quickly

Verge trees

Another option to enhance vegetation in your area is to request a tree for your front verge from your local council. Many Perth councils including the City of Gosnells, Armadale, Bayswater, Cambridge, Stirling and Wanneroo provide a free verge tree planting service. Creating an urban forest along streets and roads provides corridors for wildlife between natural areas as well as enhancing the appearance of the area. Contact your local council to find out what services they offer.

Check with your council if you can implement a verge garden! This is useful if you have a very small lot.

Ask your council for a verge tree or more (if you have a corner block!)

Inspiration and professional services

For more native garden inspiration we recommend checking out Perth horticulturalists and garden designers such as Sabrina Hahn and Garden Deva. A list of native bird-friendly plant species suggested by Kaarakin, as well as our field guide and the DCBA’s guide to plants for Carnaby’s black cockatoos can be found here.

By setting up your garden to attract birds, you are not only creating a space for wildlife to live and feed, you also get the benefits of a beautiful but hardy garden of Australian natives. With the decline of habitat for black cockatoos continuing, every little bit we can do to contribute helps rebuild their population back to safe levels.

Share with us on social media what your favourite bird-friendly native plant is in your garden! Tag @kaarakin!

Inspiration Board (all garden designers and nurseries are at the top of the Instagram post if you need to contact them!)

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