Flower power! Birds take “wildlife-friendly planting” to the next level as they nest in garden plant pots

Grey wagtail eggs nestled in a flower pot nest

The RSPB has heard from gardeners who found unexpected life sprouting in their flowerpots – baby birds! Andrée and Jeff from Kent spotted a collared dove nesting in their geranium pots, and Matt’s hanging basket in Nottingham, filled with winter pansies, ornamental grass and cineraria silverdust, is now home to a nest of grey wagtail chicks.

Grey wagtail eggs nestled in a flower pot nest

The images come as the UK’s breeding season gets underway, with gardens and greenspaces bursting with activity as birds to and fro with nesting materials and food for hungry chicks.

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While it is not the norm for birds to nest in flowerpots, if they feel safe they may decide that your garden, balcony, or even windowsill is the best place to raise their chicks. UK gardens and balconies cover 4,000km2 altogether, an area more than twice the size of Greater London, which is a whole lot of potential nesting spaces!

Filling your outdoor space with wildlife-friendly plants is also a great way to provide a natural source of food and shelter to birds and other garden wildlife. While not all plant pots will bloom with feathered friends, the right plant in the right place can provide food and shelter to everything from pollinators such as bumblebees to hedgehogs and birds.

Here are five wildlife-friendly, easy-growing plants to get anybody started:

  • Sunflowers – beautiful and easy to grow from seed, these classic flowers are great for pollinators and are a great food source for birds when they set seed.
  • Cornfield annuals – for just a couple of pounds you can have the glow of red poppies and blue cornflowers within weeks
  • Mini-meadow – Across the country this month, many gardeners will be locking up their lawnmowers and taking part in #NoMowMay. Letting parts of your lawn grow for a few months, or even better until late summer, means you could be rewarded with drifts of clovers and other meadow flowers abuzz with pollinators.
  • Lavender, the familiar lovely-smelling herb that’s brilliant for bees and butterflies.
  • Foxgloves, tall purple, pink and white flowers that are bee magnets.

While you wait for your plants to grow, you can give parent birds a helping hand by putting out a saucer of clean water as well as some food. Some favourite foods include sunflower seeds, raisins, mild grated cheese, mealworms, or even soft apples and pears, or bananas and grapes. Avoid putting out peanuts though unless they’re in a suitable mesh feeder, as chicks can choke on larger pieces.

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It’s also important to not disturb the nests, wherever you find them, and to resist the urge to intervene if you see a young bird on the ground. Once young birds have wings large enough to fly, they often spend a day or two on the ground while they learn to use them. Thankfully the parents are normally close by keeping an eye on them and so it’s best to give any nests or chicks you come across a wide berth. If you see a baby bird on the ground without feathers and are 100% sure of the nest it has fallen out of, you can try gently putting it back in the nest. If you’re not sure, please give the RSPCA a call at 0300 1234 999 or contact your local wildlife rehabilitation centre.