A garden of any size and at any location will attract birds if there are sufficient plants grown to provide them with shelter and food. Food comes in the form of nectar from the flowers and fruits. Insects that are attracted to the flowers and fruits in turn attract birds. Birds also visit plants for nesting materials, not to mention suitable nesting sites.
In the garden, try to have one or a cluster of tall trees or even palms to provide resting sites for birds flying from one area to another (below left). Below these taller trees, grow normal-sized trees. Shrubs and herbs can be grown between the trees. In this way there is layering of the vegetation. A patch of tall grass and a small pond can complete the garden design. The former will attract birds that eat grains while the latter provides a supply of water for wildlife, besides a habitat for insects that require water to complete their life cycle.
Grow climbers and/or scramblers by the trees, using the latter as support (above right) LINK. This helps increase faunal biodiversity, not to mention the food they provide to birds in their flowers and fruits. Encourage epiphytes (ferns, orchids) and semi-parasites (tropical mistletoes) to grow on the branches of trees for the same reason (top). Epiphytes cause no harm to the trees they grow on but semi-parasites are only harmful when they proliferate excessively.
Naturally the number and species of birds that visit the garden will depend on the species of plants that are planted. So an important factor in attracting a good selection of birds is the species of plants that are chosen.
All plants (except ferns, mosses, lichens and algae) eventually flower that in turn develop into fruits. Flowers that produce copious nectar will attract sunbirds, flowerpeckers and other nectar feeding species as well as a variety of insects. Fruits vary from dried to succulent and not all types of fruits are suitable food for birds. Also, different species of birds seek different types of fruits. Generally, succulent fruits attract birds from far and wide. The best bird-trees are often heard before they are seen during the fruiting season. And fig trees are one of the best to attract birds of different species.
An important point to note is try not to spray chemicals to control insects in a bird garden, and this includes regular fogging against mosquitoes, popular in Singapore as a control against dengue. Insects are part of the garden ecology and if there is an epidemic, physical control should be considered. And do not forget to grow fish in the pond, if you have one, as mosquito control.
In subsequent posts we will discuss what are the best plants to grow and other aspects of making your bird garden a success.