Plants and Shrubs Attractive to Birds Creating a bird friendly habitat

The key to encouraging more birds into your garden is not just bird feeders, although they clearly have a role to play, it's the whole garden habitat. Birds are looking for shelter, nesting places, cover, food which is often berries and insects, a water source and a good place to raise their young.

No one plant or shrub can provide for all the birds' needs. Diversity will create the ideal environment with shrubbery providing cover and nesting as well as food, flowering plants including early and late in the year, wild areas promoting pollinators and native wild flowers, and most importantly, a water source. Without doubt, a pond is a magnet for wildlife, including birds. 

Blackbird in leaf litter

Leaving areas untidy allows birds room to forage and we know blackbirds love leaf litter and, by extension, bark chippings. Instead of hard landscaping paths, consider bark chippings to make paths wildlife friendly and you will always have a friendly blackbird rummaging around to find the grubs and insects hiding in the leaves and bark.

We know birds like shrubs with berries to provide autumn and winter food, but they also like insects and shrubs which attract insects of all types are popular. 

Shrubs and trees are birds' natural habitat. The more shrubs and trees in the garden, the better the bird habitat. Hedges are ideal rather than fences. Sometimes fences are necessary but their wildlife score can be improve but suitable climbing plants. Planting ideas below.

Planting shrubs and trees

native Hawthorn

Native Hawthorn

Our native Hawthorn is a deciduous, flowering large shrub or tree commonly used for hedging. It supports an extensive number of insects providing food for blackbirds, thrushes, greenfinches and more. Its dense branches and leaves provide roosting for wrens, robin, blackbirds, song thrush and hibernation for small mammals. It's size can be controlled by pruning and it makes an ideal hedge or part of a shrub collection.

Cotoneaster

Cotoneaster

The birds love the berries, and the bees the flowers. Cotoneasters are a wide range of shrubs and trees. Smaller varieties which are more garden suitable include C. amoenus, an evergreen variety around 2.5m; C.× suecicus 'Coral Beauty' low growing 2.m; C. franchetii semi evergreen 3-4m or if space is very limited, C.  horizontalis, which as the name suggests is a low growing deciduous variety. Blackbirds, thrushes and waxwings will consume the berries.

Pyracantha

Pyracantha

Pyracantha is also big on berries which are bright red or orange in the Autumn. Pyracantha is an evergreen shrub which has scented white flowers in the spring followed by a profusion of berries.

Many birds are attracted by the berries, especially sparrows and finches.

Most shrubs and trees which produce berries will be attractive to birds. In addition to the suggestions above, also bird friendly are Rosa Rugosa which has large hips in late summer and autumn, which birds enjoy. Holly with its red berries is another bird favourite. You need to right combination of shrubs to get holly berries, check out growing tips. Also bird friendly are rowan, whitebeam,  guelder rose, elder, and ivy. 

A Wild patch

A wild area is always popular with the birds. It need not take over the garden, just a corner where nature is left to its own devices. Ideal to have in this area is longer grass, log piles as rotting wood accommodates insects, and some bird friendly weeds and wild flowers. Although this is a wild area, it is good to have a gardening hand in it to shape it to be bird friendly and here as suggestions. 

If you are thinking of wilding your garden, check out how to create a wild garden.

Native  Bramble

Grow Brambles

Brambles are regarded as a weed, but just a few in a wild area are great for wildlife. They provide nectar enjoyed by an array of pollinators and insects.

The fruits are eaten by blackbirds, thrushes, starling, chaffinches and small mammals. The shrub also provides nesting for robins, wrens, thrushes, blackbirds and finches, so all round good to grow, just a few. 

Teasel seed  head

Teasel

Teasels are a self seeding biennial which has soft purple flowers in late summer, attractive to bees.

After flowering, the seed heads stay in place for weeks and are irresistible to goldfinches who feed on the seeds.

Teasel is easy to grow from seed and vigorous. Once established, they will self seed around the garden each year.

Honeysuckle growing semi wild

Honeysuckle growing semi wild

We know lonicera as honeysuckle, but its other common name is woodbine. It grows well in a semi wild woodland type setting in soil which is moist but well drained. 

The wonderfully scented flowers attract a range of insects, which birds will feed on. Later in the autumn, when the berries appear, so too will bullfinches, warbles and thrushes.

A word about water

Kingfisher in garden pond

If you can manage a pond in your garden, the birds will love it. Blackbirds and garden birds will bath in it, fluffing up their feathers for a good wash.

I took the image top centre of a Wagtail tit on a lily in my garden pond. A common visitor, bobbing across the lily pads looking for insects, of which there are always plenty in a pond.

An uncommon visitor is in the image right, which is not the best quality but a magical moment. Rarely is a Kingfisher seen in a garden setting and I just grabbed the camera. On two separate occasions, the Kingfisher arrived and flashed his beautiful blue for just a few seconds.

More commonly found around ponds are a host of wildlife including: many birds to bathe and drink, damselflies and dragonflies in abundance, frogs and toads, mammals for drinking such as foxes and badgers, Invertebrates such as pond skaters, water boatman and water beetles, which in turn attract more birds to feed on the insects. 

How to build a garden pond.

Last updated 08.01.2022