Attracting birds to a hedge

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 helpdesk@hedgesdirect.co.uk – 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!)

5 Responses to “Attracting birds to a hedge”

  • How do you get the bare root hedges to be ‘thicker at the bottom’ to provide shelter for the animals?

    regards
    Mandy Wilson |(Mrs)

  • June:

    Hi Mandy

    If it’s a young hedge, you should trim off half to two thirds of the annual growth to stimulate growth at the bottom. If it’s an old hedge then you can either infill with young plants or have the hedge laid – I bought a good book on hedge laying from Amazon – it’s quite a skilled country craft

    June

  • […] sind erst im Sp¤therbst oder Winter reif und dadurch ein begehrter […] Comments. Name …Attracting birds to a hedge | June's BlogJust as we all look forward to Spring, so do the birds they've survived many weeks of harsh winter […]

  • Rob:

    Hello June,
    we will be planting circa 300 meters of hedging and have a few questions. Your mixed native hedging seems exactly what we are looking for but not sure how to calculate the amount needed? Also, can you let me know dates of the planting season?
    Thank you, Rob

  • June:

    Many thanks for this question. The one benefit of a long cold winter/early Spring is that the bare root season is going to last a little bit longer this year. Normally the season comes to an end as some of the species are budding in late March but this year we expect to still be able to supply bare root plants until early or even mid April. If you miss this year’s season then it starts again in November but because so many people want to plant in November, we get choka block with pre-orders so do get your pre-order in place in summer.

    If you’re using relatively small plants (40/60cm or 60/90cm) we recommend either 5 or 7 per metre in a double staggered row (a zig zag) – with taller plants, 3 or 5 per metre.

    When you’ve got a very long length like 300m, you could consider making your hedge even more species rich – our standard mixed native hedging is 6 species (Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Dog Rose, Field Maple, Hazel and Wild Cherry) but you could select some of the other lovely species to make the hedge attract even more wildlife – think about Juneberry, Rosa Rugosa, Bird Cherry, Willow, Alder, Elder, Dogwood – as Julie Andrew’s used to say “these are a few of my favourite things”. You can also think about adding some evergreen or semi evergreen colour – Beech, Hornbeam, Wild Privet and Holly.”

    June