They say you shouldn’t feed native birds, well, I hope that doesn’t include supplying them with nectar from garden plants! At the moment the garden is alive with honeyeaters, Red Wattlebirds, New Hollands, Eastern Spinebills, and the occasional White-plumed, with a small flock of Silvereyes also getting in on the act. The plants that are drawing them in are mainly the grevilleas, with Hakea Burrendong Beauty and numerous hybrid correas playing a minor role. What a wonderful range of grevillea cultivars have arisen from the marriage of two species from opposite sides of the continent, Grevillea bipinnatifida from the Darling Scarp in Western Australia, and the variable Grevillea banksii from Queensland. The original and still one of the best is Robyn Gordon, a spontaneous hybrid between bipinnatifida and the red form of banksii, hardy in most soils with nectar rich flowers year round except when nipped off by frost.
Two more with the same parents except that banksii was the white form, are Peaches and Cream, and Coconut Ice. The former is probably the most vigorous and floriferous grevillea hybrid we’ve ever grown, the flowers gradually age from cream to pink.
Coconut Ice is a compact free flowering shrub that has proved extremely popular with the honeyeaters, it must have a copious nectar flow.
The white form of Grevillea banksii was also perhaps involved in the uncertain origin of Grevillea Moonlight, a cultivar almost identical to Grevillea whiteana which is certainly in its parentage. This shrub can grow into a small tree but responds well to hard pruning, it’s very popular with the honeyeaters and sets a lot of seed
Similarly, the white banksii may have teamed with Grevillea pteridifolia, the Golden Grevillea, to give us the cultivar Honey Gem that has been attracting the Silvereyes. The blooms are often plundered by the destructive criminal rosellas that delight in nipping off complete racemes.
Grevillea Superb is another bipinnatifida white banksii hybrid, and it has been used with Grevillea Moonlight to produce the richly coloured Grevillea Flamingo.
I sometimes wonder what makes honeyeaters prefer particular plants, could nectars vary in taste and different birds have their own preferences? Red Wattlebirds are notorious for scooting smaller honeyeaters like the spinebills, but at the moment that isn’t happening. The Yellow Gums are in flower and the wattlebirds are fully occupied feeding there, leaving the smaller birds in peace. There is much more nectar in the grevilleas so there must be something about the sparse eucalypt nectar that they prefer, I wonder if there is an answer.
Click to enlarge.