plants that attract Birds

Homes for Wildlife

Homes for Wildlife
If you love the creatures in your garden, you'll love our Homes for Wildlife project. This is the place to ask and answer questions about making your backyard wildlife-friendly.

plants that attract Birds

  • Hello!

    I am rather new to the RSPB community.  I was wondering if anyone could advise me on what plants I can put in the garden in the spring to attract birds.   I have a front garden which is mainly a drive, yet has a few borders and soil patches, one which has some rose bushes in it.  I  have a bird feeding station in my garden (thanks to a post which informed me they were in Aldi in £10, a very good buy!), which is attracting quite a few great tits and blue tits.  Any advice would be great!

  • The winter is a good time to consider planting fruit and berry bearing trees or bushes in the garden. As well as the many native berry-bearing species (including rowan, holly, whitebeam, spindle, dog rose, guelder rose, elder, hawthorn, honeysuckle and ivy), attractive shrubs like cotoneaster, pyracantha and berberis are especially good for a wide range of birds.

    Berry and fruit bearing trees provide food for a range of insects and animals, too: hedgehogs, badgers, mice, squirrels and even foxes will all happily feed on them. All sorts of fruit are attractive to insects, and if you leave them where they fall in the late summer and autumn they will attract numerous butterflies to their syrupy goodness.


  • pyracantha (fire thorns) are good in summer berries in autumn and green in winter spiky though ...but can be clipped to fill any gap .... teasles are good birds love the seeds and globe artichokes to.... im sure theres a list somewhere on google ....ohh theres 1 on here lol ...

  • Thanks I will try that!

  • Would a raspberry bush be any good? (they are my favourite fruit!)

  • broughtupbirding

    Would a raspberry bush be any good? (they are my favourite fruit!)


    Raspberries grow from canes. Not sure you can buy one cane, and they spread by runners. As doggie says, you'll be competing with the birds, rather than planting them for them. Autumn varieties seem to escape the birds. Possibly they find other food sources more attractive. If you're looking to attract wildlife, I wouldn't rank raspberries up there with the list Mrs T provided. Pyracantha is about the best garden plant there is as it provides flowers which attract bees, berries which several species of birds eat, are easy to grow, provide colour, shelter for smaller birds, a nest site and are a good barrier if you want an area closed off for security reasons.


  • Mrs T has a good list. Cotoneaster plants are really decorative if grown upright against a wall or fence; the berries are always eaten.  

    I love blackbirds so I have three Amelanchiers in my garden; blackbirds fight for the berries and the flowers attract a lot of insects as well. They berry in the summer and are ready earlier than the others.

    The shrubs and trees will provide a permanent structure throughout the year. Adding other flowering annuals and perennials attract a range of insects which the birds will eat. Blue tits and sparrows are always on the look out for aphids on the shrubs.

  • Thank you, I will take your advice as really I wish to attract more wildlife, not feed my little belly, haha!

  • The best plant for birds in our garden is a photinia - the blackbirds liked the berries, but the small birds love the shelter it provides. Encouraging insects with pollinating plants, and having a lawn, could also help - we've just cleared an area to put a lawn in and the blackbirds are having a field day digging for worms.

  • Hello a 'belated' warm welcome from North Somerset also!

    I have posted answers on earlier threads that may be of interest to you, instead of writing them all out again I've done a copy & paste here for you. This doesn't allow you to see the pictures but you can visit the full thread here to see them and all the other informative answers that should offer some good advice.... 

    Just picked this thread up and has turned into an interesting read!

    The advice given so far has been very good and varied but I couldn't help noticing that no one has suggested water yet!

    When feeding birds I'm sure that you're already aware that you must put out water also but to really start attracting birds a small water feature would help. You say that it is a small garden but if you can squeeze in a small pond somewhere then this would be very beneficial. I have a large Koi pond in my garden not designed for wildlife and wanted to add a small wildlife pond so actually used an old reclaimed bath sunk into the ground! The only consideration is that it needs shallow areas for wildlife to enter and exit or bathe in so you might need to add rocks/bricks to create this or as I did use a pond liner allowing shallow areas to be added around the side of the sunken tub! This is a very cost effective way of creating a little wildlife pond in a confined space? If you can let it get a little overgrown round the edges to make wildlife feel a little less conspicuous then this will also add to it's attractiveness for wildlife. If you want to read a step by step guide about how I built the pond, it's on my blog (link below)

    Here is a picture of my bath tub pond...

    I've included this picture not because it's a good picture of the pond but it demonstrates the plant cover around it well.

    As most have suggested good cover is essential for the birds and I think Doggie is absolutely right with the arch idea although I would grow something like Honeysuckle or Clematis (C. Montana if you want fast and big but with good flowers) over it myself.

    Birds love to perch somewhere safe, which the arch will help with, but you can't beat trees so try an incorporate a couple of trees if you can? Even if you can only fit in small trees this will give you long term gain?

    Where you put all this in your garden could be crucial also, you say that one neighbour feeds and attracts birds? I would plant my trees/climbers on the fence etc on this side and you might just find that as they grow and mix in with your neighbours planting/trees you create a natural stepping stone for them? Not sure what's the other side of all your fences but is there scope for some greenery on the other side of your fences to draw them in from elsewhere?

    Perennials such as Verbena, Rudbeckia & some sunflowers will add summer colour and a good source of nectar for bees and other pollinators but so long as you don't cut them down before Spring, they will also provide winter food for finches and in particular Goldfinches. My perennial border has been visited by finches for the last two winters now as the picture below shows...

    (Sorry rubbish picture!!)

    So to conclude, my thoughts are: Water to drink, water to bathe in, good cover (don't be too tidy) height/arch/climbers/trees, Perennials for winter seed, don't be too tidy and create natural 'corridors/stepping stones from other areas or neighbouring gardens....

    Hope that helps a little?

    Best regards


    P.S I'll post another below in a moment...

  • Right here is the other thread that I remembered had a lot of posts with some very good advice on it that may help....

    Below is my answer but again see the whole thread here.

    Hello All, thought I heard my name being taken in vain!!! :-)

    Some great options have already been given above it has to be said! I'll try not to mention the same plants but will add a couple of others to the mix...

    Alder Buckthorn is a cracking native shrub/small tree and as well as helping the birds Buckthorns are the only food plant for the Brimstone Butterfly caterpillar so it would be great to get as many gardeners as possible growing this if we can!?

    Wild Cherry is a smallish tree that will give you fruit for Starlings, thrushes amongst others and beautiful white/pink flowers in the Spring which are good for early pollinators and especially bees.

    As well as shrubs think about climbers which can be trained against a fence or allowed to ramble through a hedgerow. Ivy is the ultimate plant for this offering good cover and a supply of berries for lots of birds. I also grow different types of honeysuckles for both birds and pollinators including some evergreen ones that I let ramble through the other hedging shrubs as it gives year round cover.

    To think outside the box a bit, Hazel is a good option for hedging although it benefits from being coppiced to get the best out of it. The hazelnuts are delicious for you to eat but will also attract a different type of bird to your garden other than the normal berry eating finches etc, such as Jays, Corvids and woodpeckers who are all attracted to the hazelnuts (as are squirrels and woodmice!!)

    As Wendy says above, there are a few posts on my blog about different plants for birds and pollinators, which are just as important as they become another food source to attract birds into your garden! If you don't mind scanning through the archives on the right hand side of my blog you may find a few things of interest. you can follow the link here...

    As always if I can be of any assistance please feel free to drop me a line on here or via the blog.



    P.S. There are lots of very good threads on this section that give some really valuable advice so it is definately worth searching back through sme of the older posts to see what will suit your needs?...

    Best of luck and don't forget to keep us informed of what you do and how you get on as your project goes a along?


  • Grandmamac
    Mrs T has a good list. Cotoneaster plants are really decorative if grown upright against a wall or fence; the berries are always eaten.  

    Mrs T – Grandramac

    Could you please tell me what species of cotoneaster you are referring to.  

    I am planning my garden just now and would like to plant cotoneaster as it is so decorative however I am finding a lot of conflicting advice when reading up on the evergreen species “Lacteus” as some say the berries are inedible and the birds wont eat them :-)

    I am looking for one as screening which I can train up against my fence either as a wall shrub or small tree 10 to 12 feet and preferably evergreen with edible berries.  

    Lacteus seemed the ideal choice but not if its berries are no good for the birds.   

    I am based south east Scotland and would appreciate any help :-))

  • higgy50
    I also grow different types of honeysuckles for both birds and pollinators including some evergreen ones that I let ramble through the other hedging shrubs as it gives year round cover.

    Hi Higgy50, lots of brilliant information in your posts and wondering if you could give me some advice with climbers.

    I am working on wildlife-friendly screening just now (post above about cotoneaster) and also interested in honeysuckles.  There are so many to chose from,  I am interested in what species you grow?   Ideally I'm looking for an evergreen, fast growing honeysuckle to keep around 12' as a pollinator and have a good supply of berries for the birds.   

    The other thing I must consider with climbers is the toxicity of their berries/fruits as I need to think about my young dog and need to stay away from the likes of humulus lupulus (hops) which are fatal to dogs, if eaten.  

    appreciate any advice :-)

  • Hi Karen

    Re your honeysuckle, without question the native honeysuckle Lonicera pericyclum is the best for UK wildlife. It's not evergreen though, but when planted with ivy Hedera helix both together provide a good mix of benefits for wildlife all year round. To further enhance the wildlife benefit and appearance add a climbing rose like a dog rose Rosa canina.

    I would suggest a pyracantha P. coccinea instead of a cotoneaster for training up a wall, the berries are attractive to birds and the foliage can provide great nesting and roosting sites.

  • Hi Karen

    I grow Cotoneaster sternianus AGM against a wall. this variety is not evergreen  but the berries have almost all gone now. The birds have seeded it in next door's garden and in a narrow strip next to a parking bay across the road. I don't mind it being deciduous because the bare shrub has a distinct structure  and doesn't look untidy. The more commonly found Cotoneaster horizontalis in next door's garden still has all its berries and will often keep them throughout the winter.

    I didn't want a pyracantha for this spot because it's right next to a path. Ian is right, they provide excellent shelter and protection for birds with the thorns but  I worried about my grandchildren impaling themselves!