Plants for birds: the best songbird-friendly plants

Frederike
Frederike
Frederike
Frederike

I am a student of agricultural sciences and a real country kid. At home, I love tending my small vegetable garden and spending time out in nature. When not outdoors, I love to write. Beyond gardening and writing, however, I am particularly passionate about wildlife.

Favourite fruit: currants and raspberries
Favourite vegetables: salsify, savoy cabbage and potatoes

Birdsong in the morning gladdens any gardener’s heart. Find out which bird-friendly plants you can use to attract songbirds here – our top 10 plants for birds.

A thrush in an amelanchier bush
Birds in the garden are a great thing – with the right plants you can attract them [Photo: TashaBubo/Shutterstock.com]

Blackbirds, thrushes, finches and starlings – these songbirds delight not only children but are also extremely popular with adults. No wonder, after all, the birds inspire us with their beautiful song and are additionally wonderful to watch. But unfortunately, birds rarely find their way into many gardens. There can be many reasons for this: not enough food, not enough nesting sites or a lack of hiding places are just some of the factors that because birds to avoid a garden. Fortunately, you can remedy the situation with the right plant selection – we show you ten plants that have proven to be particularly bird-friendly.

Ideally, bird-friendly plants have densely branched growth, making them suitable for nesting and hiding from prey predators. In addition, berry-bearing plants are perfect for birds because they provide a good source of food. But many birds also depend on insects for food – so a insect-friendly garden is automatically very bird-friendly.

1. Common snowball

With its ball-shaped, snow-white inflorescences, the common snowball (Viburnum opulus) is a true splendour and attracts all attention in the garden. But not only people are delighted with the impressive flowering – birds also love the dramatic plant. The dense growth of the plant, which can grow up to four metres high, provides a great hiding place for the animals. The numerous, red berries, which the snowball bears in autumn, are also highly sought after by birds. In addition to the common snowball, the wayfaring tree (Viburnum lantana) has also been found to be very bird-friendly.

A guelder rose in the snow
The berries of the guelder rose also provide sufficient food in winter [Photo: McGraw/Shutterstock.com]

2. Whitebeam

With a height of up to 15 metres and a very dense crown, the whitebeam (Sorbus aria) is admittedly not suitable for small gardens. However, those who have a sufficiently large garden will find the hardy woody plant a versatile garden plant that has numerous advantages. Especially its high attraction to birds should not be underestimated. With its dense foliage crown, the whitebeam provides a protected nesting site, and the small size of its berries make it an attractive food source for smaller bird species as well. By the way, when crushed, the berries were once used as an ingredient in bread.

Common whitebeam berries on the bush
The common whitebeam is an attractive food source for birds [Photo: APugach/Shutterstock.com]

3. Berry bushes

Delicious berries are a must in any garden in the summer. But not only people are fond of the sweet nibbles – birds also benefit from numerous berry bushes in the garden. Especially blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) as well as raspberries (Rubus idaeus) are popular with birds because they offer them a great food base. But also currants (Ribes) and blueberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) are true bird magnets – however, here one should pay attention to the use of old varieties, since new cultivars are not particularly well accepted by many birds.

A black capped flycatcher perched on a raspberry bush
Berry bushes are very popular with birds [Photo: Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com]

4. Blackthorn

Whether as jam, liqueur or syrup – the sweet and sour berries of the blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) can be wonderfully processed in the kitchen and therefore have many fans. But birds also like the blackthorn fruit and are particularly fond of it as a source of food. In addition, blackthorn offers another advantage for birds: its densely branched growth and long, dark thorns, which have also earned the plant the name “blackthorn”, make it an ideal nesting site in which songbirds are protected from natural enemies.

A blue tit perched on a sloe bush
The sloe is a popular food source, as is the case with this [Photo: Alan Tunnicliffe/Shutterstock.com]

5. Wild roses

Cultivated roses (Rosa) look charming in the garden but often have no value for insects and other animals. Those who nevertheless do not want to do without the queen of flowers will find an ideal solution with wild roses: these have the same unmistakable charm as their cultivated relatives but at the same time provide food and shelter for all kinds of creatures. Dog roses (Rosa canina) and beach roses (Rosa rugosa), in particular, are considered especially bird-friendly because they attract insects with their flowers and open up an important food source in winter with their rose hips.

A chiffchaff perched on a rosehip
Rose hips are an important food source for birds in winter [Photo: Opalev Vyacheslav/Shutterstock.com]

6. Shadbush

The shadbush (Amelanchier) is a rather unknown fruit variety that has fallen into oblivion in many areas – unjustly, after all, the plant has numerous advantages: it is considered particularly undemanding and frost-hardy, its fruits have a fantastic aroma, and many varieties have an impressive autumn colour. In addition, the plant is also considered particularly bird-friendly because it is an ideal source of food. Thus, the flowers of the plant in the spring attract countless insects, which are eaten by many species of birds. In autumn, on the other hand, its fruits are a popular meal.

An american robin perched in an amelanchier
The amelanchier is a very bird-friendly plant [Photo: Mircea Costina/Shutterstock.com]

7. Holly

Holly (Ilex aquifolium), also known by its botanical name Ilex, is probably one of the most popular Christmas plants of all and is popularly used in gardens as an ornamental shrub. Especially its distinctive red berries, which remain on the plant throughout the winter, make the decorative value of holly. But birds are also fond of holly: while the small berries are poisonous to humans, they provide a richly laid table for birds. Especially among smaller birds, however, the plant is also popular as a nesting site because its spiny leaves offer reliable protection against larger predators.

A tufted titmouse in a holly bush
Small birds like to use the holly as a nesting site [Photo: Steve Byland/Shutterstock.com]

8. Cornelian cherry

The Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) has made a name for itself in recent years especially as a bee-friendly plant because its early flowering in March and April makes it an important food source for pollinators. But the plant is also a godsend for birds: in addition to insects, the numerous small fruits in autumn are an important source of food for birds, which are magically attracted to the Cornelian cherry. Even people find pleasure in the aromatic fruit – especially as jam cornelian cherry is very popular.

A bee atop a cornelian cherry flower
The cornelian cherry attracts not only birds, but also insects [Photo: Nataliia Melnychuk/Shutterstock.com]

9. Barberry

Hedges are found in almost every garden, after all, they provide protection from prying eyes and provide enough privacy in the garden. But hedge plants are a blessing not only for people – songbirds also like to use them as a protected nesting place. The barberry (Berberis vulgaris) is particularly attractive here: The dense wild hedge offers an ideal shelter and therefore gladly serves as a place for breeding. Also, the red berries of the hedge are not only attractive but equally good food for birds. Incidentally, the attractive berries are also absolutely non-toxic to humans – but with its slightly sour taste, which also gave the plant the name “sour thorn”, it is not for everyone.

A robin perched on barberry bush
The barberry is a very bird-friendly hedge [Photo: Olexandr Reznikov/Shutterstock.com]

10. Rowan-berry

The name says it all: there is probably no plant that attracts birds as reliably as the rowan-berry (Sorbus aucuparia). A total of 63 bird species can be directly linked to the plant – either using its dense foliage as a nesting site or eating its distinctive red berries, which can be found on the tree from late October. Another feature of rowan is that it is also suitable for small gardens: Some varieties of the robust rowan, for example the Koehne mountain ash (Sorbus koehneana), are also suitable for planting in tubs.

A fieldfare taking a berry from the rowan bush
The rowan berry is directly linked to 63 species of birds [Photo: tupulointi/Shutterstock.com]

And of course, if you want to further support your backyard birds, you can offer additional birdseed. To learn how to offer the seeds in your own, home-made bird feeder, see our dedicated article.

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