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Trees / shrubs for birds

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default Trees / shrubs for birds

Post by Chilli-head on 20th February 2016, 8:26 pm

As we inherited our garden, it had a lot of conifers. Now I know I am not alone in not being terribly fond of them as a garden plant; they are hard if not impossible to keep a sensible size - cutting into old wood leaves a dead brown tree that never recovers. Nothing grows well under them. So, I have slowly been removing them as they get too big, and beyond keeping under control by the light pruning that they do tolerate.

I am very concious though that these conifers do provide good nesting sites for birds; they are dense, providing the all important protection from above, and there are lots of forked branches to support nests.

What I wonder is what can I plant that will provide new homes for our birds, that will be more compatible with a modest garden than conifers. We have a few plants that seemed loved by the birds, notably pyrecanthus in which smaller birds often nest, and berberis that attracts hosts of sparrows for reasons I don't know (they don't seem to nest there).

Anyone have any thoughts for smaller trees or shrubs that might be good for nesting ? Our garden birds are mostly sparrows, blue tits, blackbirds, robins and the odd wren. Oh, and pidgeons, but they don't need encouraging !
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Post by Ploshkin on 21st February 2016, 12:45 pm

We have a lot of birds nest with us and I know which general areas they nest in but I really don't know what they nest in. If I have ever discovered a nest it has always been because it is in a man made location - under the roof (blue tits), in the baler(robins & wagtails), on a ledge of the shed wall behind a clematis (wrens) and in the top of a concrete block pillar (great tits). We have hundreds of big trees, the majority oak, but I don't think any of the smaller birds nest in them - tawny owls & woodpeckers do. The blackbirds and thrushes seem to nest across the river where there is a lot of scrub and a hedgebank. The robins seem to prefer the area behind the cattle shed where there are a lot of hedges (hawthorn, blackthorn, holly, honeysuckle, roses etc). Sparrows like communal living & nest in great, noisy numbers up in the roof of our big cattle shed but tucked down behind the rafters where they can't be seen.
None of that is much help really, I'm just thinking out loud, but I think that seclusion is probably more important than horticultural variety so fairly dense shrubs and some evergreens for the early brooders.

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Post by Dandelion on 22nd February 2016, 10:14 pm

Most of the birds in our garden nest in the huge Western Red Cedar which takes up the bottom part of the garden - a conifer again, so no real help! We have just lost our Mountain Ash, and are in the process of taking it down: although I haven't seen any birds nesting in it, it has provided them with a place to perch, and the bird feeder hangs from a branch of it. It's a good tree for small gardens, but is not very long lasting.

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Post by FloBear on 29th February 2016, 11:49 am

Beech hedges are popular here with the blackbirds in particular and can be kept trimmed to a manageable size without throwing a wobbly like conifers do. Also, because they are eternally juvenile in this form they hang on to their brown leaves over winter. The sound of breezes through beech leaves is a delight, too. Not necessarily what you want, but ivy on fences is popular nesting for wrens and lots of overwintering beasties. Ivy growing up into old trees is great cover for all sorts of birds. The sparrows round here like sitting in almost any sort of hedging plant. There is an ancient potentilla which is only about 1m tall and wide that they like to hang out in. Blackbirds have also nested in the camellias which grow up to the eaves of my bungalow and in the Clematis armandii which does likewise. Dunnocks nested in the winter-flowering honeysuckle but I had to chop it back eventually. It was only about 80-90 cm tall but was over 2m wide and making a sideways bid for world domination!

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Post by Chilli-head on 29th February 2016, 12:34 pm

Crikey that must be some honeysuckle ! We do have some honeysuckle, and I have taken cuttings to add to them.

Our garden is a bit of a problem that we inherited it with a lot of mature planting - far too much planting for the space in fact ! We have taken out bout 6 conifers over time which must have been 15' or more tall, and some smaller ones. The large tree in the middle that looks suspiciously like Atlas cedar is reaching a size where I can no longer safely keep it in trim, so has to go too.

We have added some hollies, a Sorbus sargentiana or Sargent's rowan which has delightful autumn colours, and Viburnum opulus (Guelder rose), both have berries for the birds but not (yet, at least) good nesting sites. All the fruit trees are pretty useless for the birds as they need to be pruned to an open structure to produce good fruit.

I like the idea of the beech, or perhaps hornbeam that has a similar ability to hold on to its leaves so providing a bit of a visual barrier even in winter. I also take from Ploshkin's comments that a fair few birds will nest in man made locations - I've been thinking of a few more next boxes - possibly a robin box.

Thanks for the ideas Very Happy
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