What feed to feed? How different bird feed can attract different feathers 

What feed to feed? How different bird feed can attract different feathers 

Introduced and native species of birds have different needs when it comes to feed

As bird lovers, we care deeply about the health of Aotearoa’s birdlife – after all, our business depends on it! Ensuring all our products are as healthy as possible for our feathered taonga comes down to the raw materials. 

With our seed-based feed – which is intended for introduced bird species – we grow as much as possible in New Zealand to ensure all the essential nutrients and vitamins are retained – these can be lost in the heat treating process undergone by many imported seed products. We also test and balance our soil for optimal harvests.

As for developing products for our native birds, we team up with scientists and environmental organisations around the country to ensure only the most appropriate ingredients are included in our mixes and recipes.

One such example is our 2023 collaboration with Manaaki Whenua on the Garden Bird Supporters Pack, which contains a selection of food for common backyard visitors – Wild Bird Nectar for the nectar-sipping tūī and bellbird, and the protein and vegetable fat-rich Wild Bird Energy Cake (popular with the tauhou/waxeye). 

The feed you choose for your backyard feeder station can depend on the kinds of birds you want to attract, or the visitors you already have appearing in your garden. Read on to find out what’s best for your nest.

What do native birds eat?

In wilderness areas, native birds tend to gravitate towards native foliage. Tūī and korimako love sipping nectar from kōwhai and harakeke flowers, and in the North Island especially, you will often see kererū nibbling on karaka and tī kōuka berries. Planting native trees and shrubs in your garden will help attract these visitors.


Many – such as the piwakawaka, riroriro (grey warbler) and tauhou – also eat small insects. These birds won’t be too fussy about the types of plants in your garden – as long as there are some spiders, moths and beetles about! Keep sticks, leaf litter and other organic material around to attract them for small insect-eating birds. Tūī are also fans of the occasional bug, hawking stick insects and cicadas from trees in the breeding season to get their fill of protein.

In more suburban areas of the country, natives may nibble on the produce from our fruit trees and will definitely enjoy a drink from a nectar feeder. If making sugar water yourself, Manaaki Whenua recommends a concentration of approximately one cup per litre of water, which mimics the sugar content of nectar naturally available in plants. 

Tauhou will love a feed of Energy Food, which gives them the protein and fat needed to get through cooler months. However, no native birds will eat wild bird seed – that is just for the introduced species.

Tahou pecking at Energy Truffle

What about feeding introduced bird species?

Your common garden sparrows, finches and blackbirds deserve love too! These birds will enjoy a cut apple or half orange in their feeder, as well as appreciating wild bird seed mixes and energy truffles. Birds such as sparrows and finches have small, conical shaped beaks that are perfect for cracking small seeds open. 

Finches pecking at Wild Bird Seed Cone


To give the native birds a fighting chance, you may like to set up multiple feeders, with a nectar mix provided separately to attract your tūī and korimako, and another general feeder with seed mix and fruit for your smaller, everyday birds.

It’s also possible to exclude the bigger guys from your feeding station by using our Little Bird Feeder, which encases the food in a wire globe that only small birds can dip in and out of.

Variety is the spice of bird life

Try mixing up your feed, with a combination of energy cakes, seed mix, nectar and fruit, as well as a scattering of meal worms for good measure. This will allow your bird friends to gain a variety of nutrients from their daily visit to your feeder and prevent them from becoming too reliant on sugar water or seed. It may also make the experience of keeping your feeder stocked a little more economical – as birds can truly devour the energy food in particular!

Be creative with your fruit offerings. Birds will love a peck at most bits and pieces you have in your fruit bowl. Try a slice of citrus, stone fruit or even some banana. However, don’t put out anything from the nightshade family, any vegetables, or kiwifruit – the latter can cause germination of invasive vines in native forests. See our quick guide to feeding fruit for more detail.

Our longtime readers know this well, but never, ever feed bread or salted nuts to wild birds. Not only is it high in salt and provides only empty calories, it can also spread diseases among birds when it sits too long outdoors or in water.

 

Finding out what your backyard birds enjoy can be a case of trial and error but this is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, keeping a watch on the flavours that get pecked up in minutes and the ones that last a little longer is part of the fun of having a feeder.

garden birds

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