Inspired by the Flora for Fauna concept that originated in UK, and is is administered by the Natural History Museum: www.nhm.ac.uk/science/projects/fff, we have compiled a list of around 280 species, selected from our database of 600 species indigenous to the greater Sydney and Hunter regions. This selection includes only species that attract native birds (fruiteaters, honeyeaters, insecteaters and seedeaters), butterflies or koalas. Nursery-bred hybrids are generally detrimental to wildlife and the environment, and are excluded from our database, as they are from the UK Flora for Fauna database. (For more detailed information, click on Hybrids.)
Throughout the natural world, plants and animals live in balanced, mutually supportive relationships within communities or ecosystems. Each organism within the community occupies its own particular niche and depends on others for food, shelter or pollination.
The term 'biodiversity' - short for biological diversity - refers to the diversity of plants and animals within a community. Including the human family, it forms a complex of communities, the Web of Life.
Until European settlement in 1788, Australia was covered in a mosaic of interlacing plant communities including heaths, grasslands, woodlands, open forest, rainforest and wetlands. A balanced diversity of birds, mammals, marsupials, reptiles, fish and other wildlife thrived within them.
By the end of the twentieth century, many of these once abundant species had become extinct, and many more are still threatened with extinction.
Land clearing in New South Wales generates over 35 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year, the equivalent of more than 7 million new cars on our roads. Land clearing, loss of habitat and the replacement of indigenous species with introduced species (and nursery-bred hybrids), are the major causes of plant and wildlife extinctions. Despite warnings from environmentalists, ecologists and others, invasive introduced plants, animals and birds continue to spread across the continent, checked only by the sustained efforts of undervalued, underpaid bush regenerators and volunteer land-care groups.
Gardens are the major source of new environmental weeds with over 6 in 10 of the new weeds in Australia since the 1970s being ‘ornamental' plants introduced by the mainstream nursery industry; plants that have escaped and self-propagated in natural areas. Potential environmental weeds still marketed, include Orange Hawkweed, Horsetail and Mexican Feather Grass, and many others too numerous to mention here.
Some native wildlife is found in a variety of habitats, others only where particular plant species grow in sufficient numbers to provide a regular source of food. For example, Pardalotes are small birds that live almost entirely in eucalypt forests and woodlands. They need the trees for nesting and for shelter, and they benefit them by feeding on scale, thrips and other insect pests. For this reason Pardalotes are sometimes called the 'vacuum cleaners' of the gum trees.
A number of exotic plant species help sustain introduced birds such as the Indian Mynah, a pest species that displaces native birds. Throughout the winter season, exotic winter fruiting trees and shrubs such as Cotoneaster and Firethorn, feed the Pied Currawong, thus contributing to the population explosion of these predatory birds. With the arrival of spring, hordes of these "wolves that fly" (as ecologist Prof. Harry Recher describes them), descend on nestlings, eggs and smaller birds - whose habitat has already been reduced or destroyed - thus contributing to their ‘Endangered' or ‘Threatened' species status, if not to their extinction. All to satisfy an obsession for exotic plants and the mainstream nursery industry's bottom line.
If you have a garden you can undo some of this damage and help restore the balance of Australia's biological diversity, while creating a retreat of unrivaled beauty and a sanctuary for native wildlife.
To attract a wide variety of native birds and other wildlife, you need to provide food, water and shelter. This is easy to achieve if you carry out the following:
Grow plants of differing heights, from trees to tall shrubs to small shrubs to grasses and groundcovers. These will provide a variety of natural food sources, nesting sites and protective cover, and an incentive to a greater variety of birds and other wildlife to visit and maybe take up residence in your garden.
Include nectar-producing understorey plants such as local banksias, grevilleas and correas, to encourage smaller honeyeaters to settle or become regular visitors. Nectar producing trees alone are not enough.
Many gardeners, unaware of their detrimental effects on wildlife, cultivate hybrid eucalypts and grevilleas with enlarged flowers. Disregarding the dubious aesthetics of these heavily promoted, nursery-bred products, their eye-catching labels fail to inform you that they attract only the larger honeyeaters such as the Red Wattle-bird, that is in no way endangered and that defends its territory against smaller, more vulnerable species such as the tiny Scarlet Honeyeater. The labels also fail to mention that, while sterile hybrids may produce nectar, they provide little or no pollen (= protein) - essential for healthy growth - thus failing to offer the correct balance offered by the species.
Provide safe nesting sites for these smaller native birds by reserving a part of your garden for dense native shrubs such as wattles and hakeas with prickly leaves, to deter cats and other predators.
Grow insect-attracting plants such as your local wattles, eucalypts and tea-trees, as many small birds including the Fairy Wren and Tawney Frogmouth feed almost entirely on insects. Insect-attracting plants are also worth growing, as birds that feed from them help control insect pests, and because nestlings of all species, including honeyeaters and seedeaters, need a regular supply of protein, partly provided by the insects that their parents feed them.
To attract seed-eaters such as finches and rosellas to your garden, grow local wattles, casuarinas and grasses.
Avoid artificial foods because these create dependence and may lack the correct balance of nutrients.
Provide your feathered visitors with regular access to clean water, for drinking, for bathing before preening their feathers and to help them keep cool in summer. Most bird baths are far too low. To keep cats out of reach the pedestal should be at least a metre or more in height, and the bowl up to half a metre across with sloping sides to provide variable water depth for a variety of birds.
(Install to a depth of about half a metre, a hardwood post, about 1.5 metres in height by 125 millimetres across, then secure a glazed saucer or shallow bowl using a proprietary adhesive, and fill with water. Your local birds will be more likely to use their new facility if you place it close to protective trees and shrubs. Allow several days for the birds to discover it.)
Attract frogs and other native wildlife to your garden pond – if you have one – by including floating ferns, water lilies and other cover-plants and by surrounding the pond with a few boulders and half-buried hollow logs, to provide these creatures with refuge and shelter.
To attract butterflies, grow Lomandra, Pimelea and other suitable species indicated in the list that follows..
Encourage birds and maybe possums to come and live in your garden by installing strategically placed hollow logs and nesting boxes, with the openings protected from direct sunlight and prevailing winds, until trees and shrubs have developed enough to provide natural nesting sites.
If you live close to bushland, by growing local eucalyptus species suitable as food sources for native creatures, you will also attract them to your garden.
B = Butterflies
H = Honey-eaters
F = Fruit-eaters
I = Insect-eaters
S = Seed-eaters
K = Koalas
GRASSES AND TUFTED PLANTS
Sydney Red Gum
Old Man Banksia
Port Jackson Pine
Small-fruited Grey Gum
Sydney Blue Gum
Port Jackson Fig
A Wallaby Grass
Blue Flax Lily
Tufted Hedgehog Grass
Spiny Mat Rush
Leafy Purple Flag
Purple Flag Iris
Five-leaf Water Vine
Toothed Guinea Flower
Dusky Coral Pea
Bower of Beauty
Wonga Wonga Vine
River Rose, Dog Rose
Pale Fan Flower
Common Maidenhair Fern
Rough Maidenhair Fern
Birds Nest Fern
Pouched Coral Fern