Get planting for birds this winter


It is not just the food we put out on bird tables that attracts birds into our gardens. Many ornamental shrubs produce berries that are favoured by thrushes, while other plants provide seeds or nesting opportunities. Given that early winter is the ideal time to plant trees and shrubs, the BTO Garden BirdWatch Team has just launched a new guide on the subject, full of information to help you select suitable plants for birds.

Blackbird (Photo: Brian McGeough)

'Plants for Birds' is the third in a series of guides helping people to improve their gardens for birds and other wildlife. Using information collated by the BTO's Garden BirdWatch Team, the guide provides information on selecting plants to provide berries and seeds, as well as nesting and roosting cover (highlighting, for example, the value of Chamaecyparis lawsoniana for nesting Greenfinches). It also explores the value of alien and cultivated species, compared with native species, and lists a wide range of plants suitable for different purposes and locations.

Some idea of the value of the guide can be seen from the way in which it includes information on when different plants produce their berries. By establishing an appropriate range of shrubs it should be possible to provide fruit for birds throughout most of the year. Similarly, the guide highlights the value of having conifers for early nesting cover and deciduous trees and shrubs later in the year.

Goldcrest nest in coniferous cover (Photo: John Harding—BTO Collection).

The guide is available free from the BTO Garden BirdWatch Team and can be requested by sending your address details to GBW Plant Guide, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU, by telephoning 01842 750050 during office hours or by emailing gbw@bto.org.

Mike Toms, BTO Garden BirdWatch Organiser and author of 'Gardening for Birdwatchers', commented "We get a lot of requests for information on what are the best plants to provide for birds. This new guide should prove to be an invaluable aid for those wishing to increase the attractiveness of their garden for nesting or feeding birds."

Written by: Mike Toms, BTO