The symphony of birdsong in the backyard can be enough to lift anyone’s mood, but research into house prices suggests it may also be a sign that your home will be worth more, too.
And house-hunters would do well to listen out for the melody of the grey shrike-thrush and golden whistler to gauge the quality of the neighbourhood.
A study in the United States has found houses in areas rich with birdlife sell for an average of US$32,000 more than those with fewer birds. And research in Britain, partly inspired by the American finding, confirms that birds in the garden can be as important as “mod-cons” in the property itself.
The American research at Texas Tech University in Lubbock found that the presence of even just one uncommon species of bird was an indication of higher house prices. The more species there were, the higher the prices became.
The researchers also found that nearby parkland did little to influence the number of birds, meaning their presence was due to nearby domestic gardens in the area.
In Britain, property specialists Rightmove, told the Daily Telegraph that the relationship between property prices and birds could be explained by the value home owners placed on having a garden that gave a window on wildlife.
Even without the commercial potential of garden birds, the start of spring is an ideal time to consider how we can make our gardens more bird friendly. Spring, of course, is when our gardens spring to life.
I’m often asked about how to make gardens bird-friendly and so over the next two columns I intend to set out some basic rules about layout and planting to attract birdlife.
Much of the information is drawn from research conducted by Grant Daniels for the University of Tasmania’s School of Geography and Environmental Studies. Although the study was conducted about 10 years ago the information drawn from it remains relevant today, and I will go into finer detail next week.
Birdwatchers in the past might have viewed the garden environment with cynicism, compared with truly “wild” environments but as more and more land is consumed by suburbia and agriculture the backyard as a bird refuge is coming into its own.
Gardens, in fact, are often the main contributors to urban biodiversity and in some places cover a greater area than nature reserves.
With urbanisation continuing and natural habitats being further encroached upon, it is likely that gardens will become increasingly important in the conservation of native birds.
By following some of the guidelines originally set out by Daniels, gardeners can encourage more native birds, not just to feed but also to drink and possibly nest.
If gardeners follow the advice they will be rewarded with not only the cheerful presence of birds but know they are also playing their part in helping to preserve our native wildlife. And there is also the bonus of increased house prices.
There are a large number of books available about gardening for birds. If they have one thing in common it is stressing the importance of a range of tree cover in the garden, and a wide variety of plants, whether exotic or native.
And, as Daniels’ research revealed, birds fare best where trees and shrubs are of differing height, ranging from small plants that provide ground cover, to medium-sized shrubs to tall trees.
The different cover will not only attract species which feed in the different layers of vegetation – from canopy feeders like yellow-throated honeyeaters to those that feed on the ground, like superb blue wrens – but also provide nesting sites. If a garden has old trees, these may also provide the nesting cavities for nest-hole breeders like parrots.
I’m lucky to have a garden that fits all the criteria set out by Daniels and this is the reason I have recorded about 65 species within its boundaries. It’s a remarkable tally considering I live only three kilometres from Hobart’s city centre.