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The best trees and shrubs for birds

Some shrubs offer food and protection at the same time, others are also particularly suitable for building nests. They also make gardens that are not too large for bullfinches, song thrushes, titmice and co more attractive. Almost all bird species prefer deciduous shrubs, conifers are only valued by a few species. Hawthorn (Crateagus monogyna) and black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) are popular with birds. The two native trees also have something to offer the garden owner.

Bushes with fruits and thorns

The two to six meter high hawthorn, which grows as a large shrub or small tree, gives many birds protection and food at the same time. It is also popular as a nesting site for hedge breeders such as red-backed red-backed birds, blackbirds, greenfinches and blackcaps. The most important criteria that a hatchery hatchery should meet are:

  • a firm hold for the nest
  • Privacy protection against attacks from the air
  • Protection against attacks from the ground

With its dense branches and thorns, the hawthorn fulfills all three conditions particularly well. The flowers, which open in May, attract wild and honey bees, bumblebees, hoverflies and butterflies - a rich buffet for insect-eating birds such as blackbirds, robins and starling. The red berries that emerge from the flowers stick to the shrub well into winter and thus provide food for feathered garden visitors even in the cold season. The undemanding hawthorn grows in sunny and partially shaded places. Caution: with age, the bushes often become wider than they are tall. You should therefore take into account the space required when planting.

In autumn the fruits of the hawthorn ripen (left), whose thorny branches offer a safe nesting place for birds. The black elderberries are not only tasty for birds, they are also good for juice and jam

Just like the hawthorn, the black elder, with its creamy white flowers, offers good bee pasture and thus a good food supply for birds, although it does not bloom until June. Black elder grows to three to seven meters high and three to five meters wide. Old bushes, through rotten branches or holes in the trunk, often offer nesting opportunities for cave-nesting birds such as blue and great tit, nuthatch or starling. Tip: To make younger shrubs attractive for cave breeders, you can hang a nest box in it. In addition to the decorative flowers, the early leaf shoots are particularly nice for the garden owner.

Cut hedges

In addition to free-growing shrubs with a good supply of food, cut hedges are also very popular with many birds. Their dense growth is a good protection against enemies. They are also used as breeding grounds by hedge breeders. Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) and privet hedges (Ligustrum vulgare) are particularly valued.

The hedge bushes are not only densely branched, they also have thorns, so that they offer optimal support for nests and good protection from enemies such as cats. In May, barberry hedges bloom with small yellow flowers, which are eagerly flown by insects - even though the plant originally comes from Asia. The small flowers later become small, elongated, scarlet-red fruits that stay on the branches until winter and are therefore available as food. If you don't want a whole hedge, you can let the bushes grow freely, they can then reach a height of two to three meters. The cut-compatible barberries also look beautiful when you cut them into a ball - and the shrub is then also dense. In autumn the Asians get a splendid, bright red autumn color.

With its leaves, which are green even in winter and do not completely fall from the bushes until spring, the privet offers feathered visitors a place to hide even when most of the other bushes are leafless. So that privet hedges do not bald in the lower area, they must be cut in a trapezoidal shape; that means that it is wider at the bottom than at the top. The pruning-compatible shrubs spoil garden owners in June and July with an intense, lilac-like scent of flowers. This is exuded by inconspicuous creamy white flowers that attract many insects as "bird food". In autumn the birdies can nibble on the black, pea-sized berries. A big advantage for bird and garden lovers: Privet grows in the sun and in the shade.

Larger trees for bird protection in the garden

Some birds cannot get by with bushes and hedges alone. Greenfinches, for example, need a tree to take off and land, and chaffinches prefer to build their nests on strong branches rather than thin twigs. Tree trunks and stable branches serve as a livelihood for climbing bird species such as nuthatches. In search of food they run up and down the trunk in spiral paths. Oaks, beeches and pines are particularly popular with the nuthatch.

Rowan berries (Sorbus aucuparia), also known as mountain ash, are ideal for today's mostly small gardens. It is only six to twelve meters high and the crown is only four to six meters wide. In May and June the tree is adorned with white flowers, which are visited by many bees, flies and beetles. For many birds, these visitors are an invitation to eat. In autumn the orange-red fruits provide food for numerous bird species. But the tree also has something to offer the garden owner at this time of year: its bright yellow to yellow-orange autumn color! Further plus points: The rowanberry only casts light shade and has loose roots. Therefore, it can be well planted under perennials and low shrubs.

Listen now and get tips for bird-friendly gardens

Which birds frolic in our gardens? And what can you do to make your own garden particularly bird-friendly? Karina Nennstiel talks about this in this episode of our podcast "Grünstadtmenschen" with her MEIN SCHÖNER GARTEN colleague and hobby ornithologist Christian Lang. Have a listen right now!

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