If you have a garden, yard, front porch area or even a balcony, you can provide a range of natural food sources and protection from predators with just a few native plants.
The more the better, but getting in the right type is key, and today we list seven of some of the most bird-friendly plants you can offer.
This evergreen or deciduous plant grows everywhere except Greenland, Iceland, the Arctic and Antarctica. Comprising over 480 species, this is one of the world’s most prevalent plants and absolutely loves well-drained (but not dry) slightly acidic soil in full sun.
However, most hollies are very tolerant and will still grow well in shade, and in dry or even swampy soil. Only the female plants produce the berries that many birds love, so you will need a male nearby for pollination.
The berries ripen in the autumn and provide essential food for migrants preparing for their journey to warmer lands and resident birds like thrushes will feast on them well into the winter. Those spiky leaves provide superb protection against predators and make excellent nest sites in among the thick and tough branches.
The perfect large bobbing yellow head of a sunflower in full bloom just does something to your heart; it is one of the world’s best-loved blooms along with roses, tulips and daisies. But they don’t just look good, they taste good too. Well, the seeds do at least.
Birds will go crazy for these oil-rich seeds when the heads start to get heavy, and you can store them in dry containers for months on end, topping up your feeders in the winter. Believed to have originated in the Americas, these flowers are found all around the world and can grow to be over 1.5m tall and they do require a lot of sun to flourish. Some species can be sown in cold frames in the winter ready for planting out in the spring.
This flowering plant of the rose family provides absolutely masses of fruit in all temperate regions of the world, and can be found even in the Himalaya.
The majority of species are shrubs and can grow up to 5m tall, and they provide superb cover and roosting and nesting sites for all types of birds. Blackbirds, thrushes and waxwings have been known to strip these shrubs in minutes, but their small extremely nutritious red berries are so numerous there is usually plenty to go around.
The plethora of insects that live and flit through ivy alone makes this a perfect microcosm, providing food for insectivores like robins and wrens.
The trailing stems and variegated leaves give the best camouflage and hiding places for many birds, and when the black berries appear in the winter, starlings, jays, thrushes, finches and other songbirds will welcome the chance to find food in the cold.
There are up to 60 different species of Cornus in the world, the architecturally fascinating woody trees and shrubs commonly known as dogwood. They are a beautiful sight in spring with their blooms, and when the flowers die back in late spring the seeds are beloved by game birds like pheasant and grouse.
Those that are not eaten – and there are hundreds on every plant – grow into plump pink to red berries which provide much needed sustenance for migrants and residents alike, after the energy draining efforts of breeding season and summer, and for some, the long journeys ahead.
A wildlife favourite, their brightly coloured red leaves stand out among the other plants of autumn attracting the attention of woodpeckers, thrashers, mockingbirds, cardinals, flickers, catbirds, and waxwings among many others.
This well-behaved, easy to tame and hardy climber can be found all over the northern hemisphere with around 180 species native to North America and Eurasia. So named because of the edible sweet nectar found within its tubular flowers, some species are highly fragrant and colourful, often used as ornamentals. Hummingbirds and other nectarivores absolutely adore them.
Because of its ability to climb practically anything, they are great plants when space is on the small side, and they provide shelter for birds such as finches, thrushes and warblers. Their flowers attract insects providing food for a whole range of birds and those who prefer fruits get to eat their berries in the autumn.
Slow-growing evergreen shrubs and small trees, these leathery-leaved plants are native to parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, Madagascar, South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Commonly grown as hedges and for topiary, they provide some of the best shelter and nest sites around for all sorts of birds with their densely packed foliage and strong, durable wood. This cover is often teeming with insects and sometimes small mammals, too. As an aside, the fine grain of the woody branches is also exceptionally good for carving, although only small things like chess pieces, or perhaps tiny flutes…
Encouraging birds to feed and nest in your garden or outside your home is good for you too, and with all that greenery around your air will be healthier, and the blooms will brighten any day.
With many bird species on the decline, even just a few plants dotted about the place will give birds the chance to find food, shelter and warmth, and help maintain the diversity that all spaces need.