Naturescaping with veld gardens to attract seed-eating birds like weavers and lovebirds

Granivorous birds are feathered fowl that get their food and from carbohydrate found in seeds and grain from grasses.

Some of the most notorious seed-eating birds are Warner Bros’ fictional yellow canary, Tweety; the gregarious red-billed quelea - the most populous bird on earth and the peace dove that carries the olive branch. Darwin put finches on the map with is theory of evolution by taking note of their beaks and food source in the Galapagos’.

Naturescaping with veld gardens to attract seed-eating birds

Red-billed quelea © Charles Sharp

Halfway across the globe here is how to attract granivorous birds to your garden using naturescaping and veld gardens.

Types of seed-eating birds that occur in the garden

Seed-eating birds are some of the most animated garden creatures with this group including the hard-working weaver, the charismatic lovebirds; colourful waxbills and peacocking whydah birds.

  • Weaverbirds - Cape weaver and masked weaver
  • Canaries - Yellow-eyed canary
  • Bunting - Cape bunting
  • Finches – Red-billed finch, red-headed finch and scaly-feathered finch
  • Doves - Cape turtle dove
  • Whydahs – Paradise whydah and pintailed whydah
  • Waxbills – Blue waxbill and common waxbill
  • Widow birds – Red-collared widow and longtailed widow
  • Pet lovebirds – Rosy-faced lovebirds and Lilian’s lovebirds (naturally occur in central Africa)

Grasses and veld gardens to attract seed-eaters

Veld gardens or no mow gardens have become increasingly popular because of they are low maintenance and water-wise, as a gardener you can literally just let grass grow under your feet. By using indigenous grasses landscapers are able to add a 3D dimension to a garden. The slender stalks of the grasses also capture the movement of the wind, while sunlight dances in the grasses' inflorescences.

Of course an added benefit of a veld garden is they attract seed-feeding birds, that feed on the fallen seed and the grass heads.

Red dropseed (Sporobolus festivus)

Is ideally suited for attracting seed-eating birds and its pink and red inflorescence gives this prairie grass a cloudy atmosphere.

Bristle-leaved red top (Melinis nerviglumis)

This grass is known to attract the smaller seed-eaters like but waxbills and sparrows.   When planted en masse the seed heads reflect sunlight making this veld grass a real eye-catcher. 

Fibrous dropseed (Sporobolus stapfianus)

Is a fine tufty grass ideal for smaller gardens or rockeries. It has very attractive leaves and is well-suited for planting in among wild flowers.

Finger grass (Digitaria eriantha)

Hardy and tall with bright green and a brown head leaves that attracts a smorgasbord of little birds.

Bushgrass (Calamagrostis epigejos)

Grows in dump areas or near water. The bush grass gets large and makes for a great nesting spot for red bishops and red-collared widow birds (both marsh birds). It also helps feed birds in the winter months. 


False love grass (Bewsia biflora)

Is a very attractive grassland specimen and a must have for a veld garden. It has a very delicate disposition with a purple inflorescence.

Naturescaping with veld gardens to attract seed-eating birds

Bronze Mannikin © Francesco Veronesi

Trees and nesting sites for granivorous birds

The nesting habits of doves, waxbills and whydahs all vary. Whydahs have a parasitic relationship with waxbills, laying their eggs in the waxbills nests. Gardeners wanting to attract waxbills should plant shrubs and grasses for building material and nesting sites. The blue waxbill constructs their nest in dense bushes or shrubbery, preferable with thorns.  A puzzle bush is ideally suited as it attracts insects as well -  a lot of seed-eaters supplement on insects. Other good garden shrubs to include are the: Transvaal gardenia (Gardenia volkensii) , large num num berry (Carissa macrocarpa), bauhinia species, sagewood (Buddleja salviifolia) and slow growing cork bush (Mundulea sericea).

Naturescaping with veld gardens to attract seed-eating birds

Male pintailed whydah © New Jersey Birds

The Cape bunting likes to nest in dense bushes and creepers – the common forest grape (Rhoicissus tomentosa) makes for dense creeper. While the widow birds build their nests in the taller grasses. The Cape sparrow and house sparrow, are true city slickers, and will make use of nooks and crannies in roofs and gutters.

Weavers are known to make their nest in Vachellia species and palm trees, so plant fever trees and for small garden use the Broadpod robust thorn (Vachellia rhobusta). Indigenous palms planted close to water will also bring masked weavers and cape weaver to a landscape.

Naturescaping with veld gardens to attract seed-eating birds

Southern Masked-Weaver © Steve Evans

In urban centres there are populations lost lovebirds, to attract these escaped birds to your veld garden put up budgie boxes to replicate cervices in trees.

Naturescaping with veld gardens to attract seed-eating birds

Peach-faced Lovebird © David González Romero

Large trees like the Cape chesnut (Calodendrum capense), Natal mahogany (Trichilia emetica) and jacket plum (Pappea capensis) all provide dense shade and shelter for all birds as well as fruit-eating bats.

Additional seed trays when naturescaping for seed-eating birds

In winter it is recommended that landscapers supplement with seed trays to assist birdlife through this challenging period.  If you are truly committed feeding seed-eaters then one should use a variety of styles of seed-feeders, from trays, seed balls and mesh cages designed to suit each bird’s feeding habits.


Tips for feeding seed-eating birds

  • Clean the seed tray - dirty trays spread diseases.
  • Let the feeder empty to avoid stagnant seed but don’t leave it empty for too long. 
  • Create a habit of putting out seed at the same time or same day  in order to create a routine. 
  • Buy a proper bird feeder from a reputable source.
  • Do not feed birds bread, bread is processed grain.
  • Make sure the feeder is rodent proof.

To attract fruit-eating birds read: Creating a garden for fruit-eating birds and to attract sunbirds to the garden Click Here.