Just as we all look forward to Spring, so do the birds – they’ve survived many weeks of harsh winter weather and food shortages and although most birds will not start building their nests until March, they spend many weeks making exploratory visits, checking out suitable nesting sites – and we hope that many of the mixed native hedging that our customers have bought from Hedges Direct will contain bird’s nests.
There are 3 main ways to make a hedge attractive to birds. The first is to make it thick at the bottom to provide the cover they like for scratching about in the darker recesses for insects, especially in winter when the surrounding ground is frozen. The carpet of dead leaves and fallen fruits generally will remain unfrozen to offer much needed food when birds need extra food simply to maintain their body temperature for survival. The thickness of the hedge also provides a valuable shelter from cold weather.
Secondly, including a few taller species or hedgerow trees (like Holly, Crab Apple, Wild Cherry, Bird Cherry, or Rowan/Mountain Ash) makes the hedge attractive to those birds, especially songbirds like blackbirds and thrush, which like to sing from the top of the hedge and hedgerow trees make attractive nesting sites for woodpigeon and ring doves.
And thirdly, a species-rich hedge (with 5 or more species) will be colonised by tiny insects and mites, a good dinner for most birds who feed whilst protected from larger predators. So, think twice before spraying with pesticide near a hedge and keep a margin of grass or wild flowers to increase the number of insects in the area.
This chart shows the approx number of insects which feed and live on common hedging plants:
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) 209
Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) 153
Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris) 118
Dog Rose (Rosa canina) 107
Hazel (Corylus avellana) 106
Beech (Fagus sylvatica) 98
Field Maple (Acer campestre) 51
Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) 51
Holly (Ilex) 10
Generally it would be true to say that the more plant species in the hedge, the more insects it would attract and in turn the more birds would be attracted for feeding and/or nesting. Our standard mixed native hedging includes Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Dog Rose, Field Maple, Hazel and Wild Cherry but we are happy to add other species – or you can “pick and mix” your own from the bare root section of our website.
Here’s a link to the RSPB page on their campaign called Homes for Wildlife – for those interested in reading more. http://www.rspb.org.uk/hfw/index.asp
Or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’re happy to help with general advice (as long as it’s got some sort of hedging theme – no point asking us about anything non-hedging – our heads are so full of hedging stuff, there’s no room for anything else!)