Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:31 pm
Birds don’t have an easy time finding food in the winter. Here you can learn how to make your natural garden a real highlight for your feathered visitors with a bird protection hedge.
And it’s not just in winter that birds benefit from the hedge’s extensive food supply. In addition to birds, many mammals also find food and shelter in it throughout the year. Plus: tips on which plants are especially popular among birds.
What are bird protection hedges?
Bird protection hedges consist only of native hedge plants. In the dense hedges, all bird species find food, shelter and nesting sites. Often they are free-growing hedges that bear a lot of fruit. For the protection of birds, these hedges are therefore ecologically particularly valuable and should not be missing in any natural garden large enough. The wild fruit hedges also give structure to the garden, provide shade and are a decorative screen.
Birds can’t find enough food in winter or spring
Due to increasing agriculture and urbanization, the habitat of birds and animals is more and more displaced. Therefore, birds hardly find enough food in winter between snow and ice nowadays. And in spring, birds don’t have it any easier during the breeding season. In the parks, bird parents often do not find enough insects for their offspring. There is a lack of native shrubs and trees. As a result, the bird parents have to resort to breadcrumbs. However, these are completely unsuitable for the brood and do not provide them with any nutrients or vitamins. Many young birds therefore fall ill with rickets because of the wrong feeding. Bird protection hedges in which numerous insects cavort and on which tasty fruits hang in autumn and winter are therefore a found food for the birds and an ideal nesting place.
Protection and food for birds, squirrels, hedgehogs etc.
In addition to birds, even more native animals find a habitat in the bird protection hedge. Numerous insect species live between the leaves with their larvae, which in turn benefit the birds. From autumn to winter, small mammals such as squirrels, hedgehogs or dormice also feed on the many wild fruits. Those who plant a hedge with native plants therefore enhance their natural garden with a living hotel for native wildlife.
Why only native shrubs are considered?
Most hedges often consist only of exotic ornamental and hedge plants such as cherry laurel. Conifers such as cypress or arborvitae (thuja) are also often planted as privacy screens. However, these plants do not provide food or nesting sites for most insects or birds. Birds can only hide in them. However, they cannot replace the effective protection provided, for example, by a prickly rose bush.
Common snowball (Viburnum opulus).
From June, the shrub decorates the garden with its eye-catching white flower balls. In autumn, it decorates the garden with bright red fruits that are particularly tasty to birds. Some of the berries remain on the shrub into the winter. In frosty weather, therefore, they are a good source of food for the birds.
The rock pear (Amelanchier)
Birds love the blueberry-like fruits of the rock pear. Blackbirds, finches, thrushes, and starlings all eat the berries. They often eat the berries before they are really ripe. The ripe purple to black fruits are also edible for humans and taste similar to cherries. They are suitable for jams, for example. In the course of the year, the foliage of the rock pear fascinates with magnificent colors. As the leaves sprout, their foliage turns from copper-red to green. Then in autumn the color show continues in bright yellow and orange-red.
The barberry (Berberis vulgaris).
The small red fruits of the barberry are also a much appreciated delicacy among birds. In the dense and thorny branches, the birds’ nests find good support and protection from predators, such as cats. In May, the small yellow flowers of barberry appear and provide food for numerous insects.
The spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus)
The peacock is a real robin magnet and the absolute hit with the small birds. The shrub is therefore also called robin’s bread. Striking pink caps hang from the branches. Small orange fruits hang out of these. Robins simply cannot resist the fruits.
The blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)
The blackthorn is considered a true conservation shrub. In spring, honeybees and wild bees feast on the nectar of the white flowers, along with bumblebees, hoverflies and butterflies. About 70 species of butterflies use its leaves to lay their eggs. The blackthorn is therefore considered a typical butterfly bush. Blackbirds, robins and wrens find ideal nesting sites among the shaggy and thorny branches.
The blackthorn is particularly valuable as a habitat for the red-backed shrike. The bird hunts for insects in the shrub and spears its prey on the thorns. Now and then it even spears mice on the shrub. The blue-black fruits are very popular not only with us humans, but also with about 20 species of birds and many other small mammals.
The Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas)
With its yellow flowers, this shrub is a valuable bee pasture. In spring it is one of the most important nutrient trees. The red fruits appear in autumn and are highly sought after among birds. Cornelian cherries contain a lot of vitamin C and are ideal for making jams or jellies.
Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
A whole 60 bird species love the black elderberry. Usually it does not take long and the birds have pecked the shrub empty. Insect fans such as blackcaps or the gray flycatcher then even miss one or two crawlers for the delicious fruit. In addition, the elder blooms in early summer with its white flower plates. The flowers and fruits can be processed and used for many delicacies. In the medicinal plant portrait about the black elderberry you will find delicious recipe ideas for the whole year.
Wild rose (Rosa)
Rose hips are not only a beautiful autumn decoration in the natural garden, but also much sought-after bird food. Birds can also find a safe nesting place among the wonderfully fragrant blossoms and thorny branches. See my article on Historic Roses for even more info on wild roses in the natural garden.
Mountain ash and bird cherries help over 50 bird species
The bird hedge can also be supplemented with medium-sized trees. Mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia) or the bird cherry (Prunus avium) are suitable for this purpose. The two trees help with their fruits over about 50 species of birds through the winter.
Selection of hedge plants for the natural garden
The choice of bird hedging shrubs is wide. Among them there are many woody plants that are edible for birds and gardeners. If there are children or pets in the garden, do not choose poisonous plants for the hedge. As an alternative, fruit bushes such as blackberries, raspberries or hazelnuts are suitable.
Hedge plants for birds and gardeners
- Red and black currants
- Blackberries and raspberries
- Cornelian cherries
- Black elderberry
- Sea buckthorn
- Wild apple and wild pear
- Rocky pear
- Hedge plants: decorative and only for birds
- Common honeysuckle
- Red elderberry
- Common privet
- Common snowball
- Spindle tree
- Early weeping cherry
Creating and maintaining a bird hedge
Of course, there should be enough space in the garden for a bird protection hedge. If the garden is too small for a hedge, individual smaller shrubs could be planted as an alternative. Therefore, when planning, the final size of the hedge later should be taken into account. There must therefore be enough distance between the individual plants. Large and small plants can be planted in staggered rows. The larger shrubs need about a meter distance and the smaller ones about 70 cm.
The bird hedge is very low maintenance and should be cut as little as possible. After all, every branch is inhabited by the living hotel for native animals of insects. Once the hedge has become really dense, it is a safe haven with food bar for the animals. Autumn leaves should also be left on the ground near the hedge. It serves as a natural fertilizer and our feathered visitors go hunting for insects in the foliage.