Native Ecosystem Biodiversity

Extract from Backyard Biodiversity in Canterbury by Al Check & Mike Bowie

Populations of plants, animals, insects and birds that interact together are known as communities. These communities, along with the physical environment in which they live are known as ecosystems e.g., rivers, forests, tussock lands, wetlands and even suburban backyards.

The greater the diversity of an ecological system the better its chances of being resilient to impacts such as climate change or invasion by pests. It is the native and endemic species of a region that are most significant. However, it is important to make the distinction between species richness (number of species) and biodiversity (each nation’s unique contribution to the world’s genetic, species and ecosystem variation). Introducing foreign species to New Zealand does not increase biodiversity; indeed biodiversity (New Zealand’s contribution to it) is generally diminished by competition, predation and grazing by introduced species causing contraction of indigenous species’ ranges and genetic diversity, and even extinction.


Native Plants

Attracting native birds, lizards and insects means planting natives that provide year round food source, safe breeding sites and protection from predators.

Plants (info from Department of Conservation) Birds Bees Lizards Insects
 Coprosma crassifolia, mingimingi    
 Coprosma propinqua, mingimingi  
 Coprosma robusta, karamu    
 Cordyline australis, ti kouka, cabbage tree
 Dacrycarpus dacrydioides, kahikatea      
 Discaria toumatou, matagouri    
 Hebe salicifolia, koromiko  
 Griselinia littoralis, päpäuma, broadleaf    
 Kunzea ericoides, kanuka
 Leptospermum scoparium, manuka
 Melicytus alpinus, porcupine shrub    
 Muehlenbeckia astonii  
 Pittosporum eugenioides, lemonwood    
 Pittosporum tenuifolium, kohuhu, black matipo    
 Phormium tenax, harakeke, New Zealand flax
 Pseudopanax arboreus, five finger  
 Sophora microphylla, kowhai


Native Birds (Food Calendar)

Native birds that you are likely to attract to your garden prefer to eat fruit, nectar, insects, and foliage. Common species and their preferred food are:

Species (info from NZ Birds Online) Nectar Fruit Foliage Insects
Kaka (bush parrot)  
Kea (mountain parrot)
Kereru (wood pigeon) - Diet    
Korimako (bellbird)  
Kotare (sacred kingfisher)      
Ngutuparore (wrybill)      
Piwakawaka (fantail)      
Riroriro (grey warbler)      
Ruru (morepork)      
Tauhou (silvereye or waxeye)  
Tuturiwhatu (dotterel)      



Bees feed on and require both nectar and pollen. The nectar is for energy and the pollen provides protein and other nutrients. Most pollen is used by bees as larvae food, but bees also transfer it from plant-to-plant, providing the pollination services needed by plants and nature as a whole.

Species (info from For the Love of Bees) Nectar Fruit Foliage Insects



There are more than 90 species found in New Zealand. All except one species are endemic (found only in NZ). If you can catch them eating, you might see them eating insects like moths and flies, which are their main food. But they also enjoy the berries and nectar of some plants and flowers.

Species (info from NZ Herpetological Society) Nectar Fruit Foliage Insects
Waitaha gecko  
Jewelled gecko    
McCann's skink      
Southern Alps gecko  
Common skink    



Most insects subsist on a diet consisting primarily of plants and fruits. Many species of bugs such as butterflies, moths and beetles are herbivorous while others may prefer sweet nectar or sugary sap. Some bugs will even feed off other insects such as aphids or caterpillars.

Species (info from ...) Nectar Fruit Foliage Insects