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Please keep an eye on our competition page for future giveaways. If you’re looking for more bird-friendly ideas? Try these…

Top 5 garden plants for birds

Bird eating sunflower seeds

Birds feed from the heads of sunflowers in autumn
Image: Sunflower ‘Russian Giant’ – Start-A-Garden™ Seed Range from Thompson & Morgan

If you love to see birds in your garden, it’s easy to fill a few feeders with good quality bird food. But with a little planning, you can also pack your borders with the plants, flowers, shrubs and trees that provide the vital food and shelter they need. 

Here are five plants that will attract birds to your garden:

1. Sunflowers

Bunch of sunflowers with dark centres

These distinctive gold and bronze sunflowers look great in containers
Image: Sunflower ‘Solar Flash’ F1 Hybrid Seeds from T&M

Sow sunflower seeds from March onwards to enjoy a spectacular display through summer and into autumn. Easy to grow, simply choose compact varieties if you want to grow them in containers and small borders.

When the brightly-coloured flowers have faded, they form large, round seed heads. Rather than cutting the stems down, leave them in place as a high-energy food source to sustain visiting birds throughout the year. Rich in essential nutrients like protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates, the seeds are especially valuable during colder months or when other food is scarce. Finches, long-tailed tits and nuthatches particularly enjoy sunflower seeds.

2. Crab apple tree

Red crab apples

The yellow fruits of this crab apple deepen to a dark glossy scarlet in time for Christmas
Image: Crab Apple ‘Red Sentinel’ from T&M

Crab apple trees vary in size, from compact specimens suitable for container gardens through to full-sized varieties that reach 5 or 6m tall. Benefiting from a long season of interest, they produce a profusion of pink or white blossom in spring followed by small fruits that mature in autumn and persist well into winter.

Crab apples are especially loved by starlings, thrushes, waxwings and blackbirds. The unharvested fruits soften after a few frosts to create a nutritious snack for the local feathered community.

3. Holly

Red holly berries with variegated leaves

This variegated female variety produces a fabulous display of scarlet winter berries
Image: Holly ‘Golden King’ from T&M

Holly can be grown as a thick, evergreen hedging plant or a tree. Easy to grow and maintain, you can clip it into a formal shape or leave it to grow more naturally. The green leaves provide a perfect backdrop for the scarlet berries that remain on the plant until late winter. You’ll need a male and a female plant for pollination – only the females produce berries.

Loved by blackbirds, redwings and song thrushes, the small, calorie-rich holly berries are a convenient food source for a wide range of birds throughout the winter. Packed with carbohydrates and healthy fats, they offer a concentrated source of energy that helps birds maintain their body temperature and overall health in harsh weather conditions. But it’s not only the berries that birds love. Holly leaves are dense and evergreen, providing secure shelter from predators.

4. Ivy

Closeup of ivy leaves

Providing a paradise for wildlife, ‘Woerner’ makes a wonderful evergreen hedge
Copyright: Alamy Stock Photo

Ivy is a shade-tolerant, evergreen climber that quickly covers walls, fences and trellises with a leafy display. A great way to conceal an eyesore, it’s easy to grow and doesn’t require fixings to help it cling. If left unpruned and allowed to establish itself, ivy becomes more shrubby. In this adult phase, it flowers every autumn and produces berries in winter.

A versatile source of food and habitat for birds, densely-grown ivy is a valuable haven. Its thick foliage provides protection from predators and harsh weather conditions, making it an ideal habitat for small birds such as wrens, robins and sparrows. Additionally, the intertwined stems and leaves create a complex and secure environment that birds can use for building their nests. In terms of food, the small, dark berries are a rich source of calories, helping birds sustain their energy levels. Thrushes, blackbirds and starlings relish these berries, while birds like robins and wrens enjoy feasting on the wide variety of insects that make ivy their home.

5. Honeysuckle

Orange and pink honeysuckle

In sheltered gardens ‘Gold Flame’ retains its rounded green foliage all year round
Copyright: Darby Nursery Stock Ltd

If you don’t have much space, traditional climbing honeysuckles are a clever way to make your garden more bird-friendly. Trained over fences, pergolas or trellis, the gorgeous flowers bring a welcome flush of colour and scent to any garden.

Honeysuckle serves as a valuable resource for birds, offering both nourishment and habitat within its intricate growth. The twining vines and dense foliage provide hiding spots from predators and safe spaces for nesting. In terms of food, honeysuckle produces small, nectar-rich flowers that attract insects. These flowers eventually give way to clusters of berries that are an important food source for birds like warblers, thrushes and finches in the late summer and autumn months. The ripening berries also offer a concentrated energy supply at a crucial time for birds that are preparing to migrate.

We hope this has helped you to incorporate more plants and flowers for birds. For a wealth of information and advice on wildlife gardening, visit our dedicated hub page.

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