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#7 Wild Bird Cafe

20 Points

Your task in this mission is to make your backyard rule by designing a wild bird cafe that’ll be tweeted about by the tūi. After all, Manu isn’t just a chef from My Kitchen Rules – it’s also the Māori word for ‘bird’!

Read the instructions


See also

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Discover more ways to make your backyard wild with Kiwi Conservation Club

What to do

Your mission is:

Make a bird feeder for your backyard. Check out the notes for the tool list you need (above) and get sweet with the manu!


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Using your dowel (or sticks) build yourself a square base for the bowl to sit on. Use the string (or cable ties) to bind it together.

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If you plan to attach your feeder to a fence or branch, leave two parallel lengths longer than the other (Check out the video for inspiration!).

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Drill four holes around the edge of your bowl and use the string or cable ties to thread through the holes and attach the bowl in the centre of your wooden base. 

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Decorate your bowl: birds and bees are naturally attracted to colourful and shiny flowers so thinking like a bird could be helpful for bringing in some regulars (think kōwhai yellow or pōhutukawa red).

It’s always cool to have some elbow-room in there too (even if your guests don’t have elbows!). 

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Find a good safe spot where your guests can enjoy their meal with a view – and they’re out of reach of cats. Then rig up your restaurant, e.g. on a fence or hanging from a tree branch.

Have a think about making it removable so the bowl is easily cleanable e.g. slot the dowel in some fencing staples (u-shaped tacks) nailed on a branch or fence.

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For the first course get your sugar and warm water: Mix the sugar into the water until it dissolves with a 1:8 sugar to water ratio – e.g. for every 1 tablespoon of sugar, use 8 tablespoons of water. Pour your sugar water into the bowl, and your bird café is open for business!!



Upload a photo of your feeder to the Wild Eyes site. See if you can capture a photo of a NZ native bird while it’s getting a feed. Check out this link if you want to identify who is visiting your café! Or post them to NatureWatch and have them ID-ed by experts. Does your café get as crowded as this TFC (Tui Fastfood Convention)? 


Check out this flash feeder for a two-storey level up. Can you match their korimako, waxeye and tui convention?

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Try using other foods (such as fruit on a nail) but be careful: not all foods are good for native birds (no bread and no nuts please – watch the video in the 'Inspiration' tab!). Give the feeder a clean every once in a while – you don’t want your café to be shut down for health reasons. 

Be patient: it can take time for the birds to discover your feeder. But once one bird discovers your sweet-as-nectar café, word of beak will spread and its visits will attract other birds in the neighborhood.

What's happening?


Aotearoa has some pretty special birds, many of which are found nowhere else (the scientific term for that is ‘endemic’) ... just like Lorde or the All Blacks. A long long … long time ago the islands of Aotearoa split off from what is now Australia and Antarctica and some surprising stuff happened: kiwis with giant eggs, forest penguins and ...

... a tui with two voice boxes = they can do beats and harmonies! 


– Lorde: the human tui!


Alien Aotearoa

– Aliens in Aotearoa?


NZ turned into a giant birdland: where other places had cows and sheep we had giant moa, where they had mice and rodents we had kiwi and weta, instead of squirrel we had kōkako. One scientist reckons wild life in Aotearoa is the closest we’ve got to being able to study how life might evolve on another planet. In short: our birds are pretty cool.


When people came here the birds didn’t have the run of the place anymore. We introduced predators like rats, possums, stoats, dogs, cats and weasels that the birds weren’t used to competing with: it was like one team was playing touch and the other was playing by full-contact rules. A lot of pretty choice birds became extinct (RIP moa!).

But now we know how special they are (they’re like Martians remember!) we can help them out. 


– Staring down a stoat


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– Tūi at a Wild Eyes bird feeder

You can’t get Martians to visit your backyard, but maybe you can get a tūi! Wild birds have gotta eat: since people came here less trees means less food for them to get stuck into. Bird feeders are an awesome way to help birds find the food they need to supplement their natural food sources  – and a great way to make new winged friends! Tūi tu meke!


The more birds you have visiting a feeder, the more likely you are to see a bit of rough’n’tumble; this sort of thing happens at natural food sources as well, and is perfectly normal. But if you start getting heaps of birds coming by for brekkie, you might wanna think about opening up some extra cafes, e.g. at your school or buddy's backyard. Heaps of birds in one place can make diseases easier to spread (like when a cold – or chicken pox – goes around your class!). 


– Waxeyes sharing a feeder / hot air balloon


Us kea and our kākā cousins are famously curious and will try out lots of food, but not all kai is ka pai OK. Nuts are fast food for parrots, and just like if you only ate fast food, bad things can happen: eating too many nuts can lead to our babies misshapen beaks and bones. So if you love kākā and us kea don't feed us nuts: stick to sugar water and fruit to keep us squawking.

- Kerry the kea



Not all food is nourishing for natives: bread can attract rats and make birds feel full so they don’t eat enough healthy food in their diet (imagine all-you-can-eat pizza every meal!). Seeds and nuts tend to attract introduced birds like sparrows, which can leave less room in your yard for some natives like the riroriro (grey warbler) ... and who wouldn’t that wee charmer to whistle a tune with?

Check out this handy video above, from young Kiwi scientist Josie Galbraith, that lays out the dos and don’ts.


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– Tui 'brush-tip' tongue in close up

Tui and korimako (bellbird) are a type of bird known as a honeyeater. They have specially designed tongues that have brush-tips – like a paintbrush. They’re perfectly shaped to lick nectar out of flowers like kowhai, kakabeak and flax (harakeke). Nature is awesome huh? If you like honey, you’ve got a buddy in a bellbird!

Try sucking on a harakeke flower for a natural sugar rush: it’s nature’s energy drink: Sweet as!


This spread is NOT recommended kākā kai! If you ate all those chips you'd get sick, and so would this kākā. You can help provide natural sources of nectar by going native and planting NZ flowering plants in your garden. Sugar water, like in your feeder, is great in winter when natural nectar sources like this are scarce. 

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– This is a kākā no-no.



– Tūi on a flowering Kōwhai

Read about the weird and wonderful ways native plants attract birds to move pollen (the first step in reproducing). Some plants also use scent, one even smells like rotting meat to attract flies – stink one!

Get inspired by nature’s fashion designers and try out some of those colours on your feeder (e.g. kōwhai yellow or pōhutukawa red) and see if you can catch the eye of a tūi or bellbird/korimako.


Even just a bowl of fresh still water (not sparkling thanks, waiter!) for birds to swim in and cool-off in summer can also make your backyard wild!


– A kōkako at a water bath, on Tiritiri Matangi Island

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