Did you know that there are 83 million pairs of native breeding birds in the UK? 19 million pairs fewer than when widespread monitoring began in the late 1960s. It might be a bleak statistic, but there’s still hope; for example, there has been a 92% increase in house sparrows in Wales since 1992, while goldfinches are now ranked eighth in the list of most common birds in the UK, up from 20th in 1995.
Garden feeding practices have changed dramatically within this time, which may be one reason why certain species are seeing a rise in numbers. If you’re placing bird feeders in your garden, that’s great! How about taking your wildlife haven to the next level with some beautiful winter plants to attract even more species this season?
Before I get into plants, here’s an accessory that every bird lover should have in their garden…
Ambience-creating robin lights
The robin is one of the UK’s most beloved birds, especially around this time of year, where their appearance heralds the onset of the festive season.
Bring a little festivity and ambience into your garden with these beautiful LED robins, which can be staked into lawns, pots and borders to brighten up your autumn and winter plant displays.
You can even take the robins off the stakes and use them as table lights for your patio furniture – an excuse to use your garden living space this season!
These lights are battery powered and they come with six AA batteries as standard. With four-hour and six-hour time functions, you can set them to illuminate your garden from the early evenings through to nightfall.
Choose from black or copper colour options to complement your garden theme!
Available here at QVC.
What to plant this winter to attract UK native birds
If you’re keen on attracting some chirpy, feathered friends to your garden this autumn and winter, here are a handful of ideas on what you can plant!
Hawthorns can grow into majestic trees if given the room, but they also make excellent bushes and hedges if kept pruned in small gardens. Hawthorns flower from April to June, and produce berries in the autumn, which are favoured by blackbirds, chaffinches, greenfinches, starlings and redwings. In spring, their leaves attract caterpillars, which serve as an excellent food source for young birds.
Hawthorn berries are not directly toxic, but the seeds can cause digestive problems. A few seeds are unlikely to hurt an adult, but make sure to keep them away from children and pets.
This is a great climber for small or large gardens. Not only does it have a lovely, sweet scent, it also produces clusters of red, bird-feeding berries in autumn, as well as shelter for robins, bullfinches, thrushes and warblers.
Insects and bats are also big fans of honeysuckle’s sweet nectar!
Malus sylvestris is a UK native, which blushes with white and pink flowers in the spring, and small, green-yellow fruits in autumn. These fruits are adored by blackbirds, starlings, thrushes and crows, and any spare fruits are wonderful in a pie (although they can be a bit tart!).
Crab apple trees can grow to a height and spread of between five to 10 metres, so make sure you’ve got the space!
A member of the honeysuckle family, this plant is most useful to winter birds when the flowers disappear and the seed heads are left. Goldfinches and sparrows love nibbling at the seeds from early autumn to December.
You’ll find teasel in all sorts of environments across the UK, from grassland to waste ground. They grow up to two metres in height, towering above other native plants.
Viburnum opulus is a deciduous shrub that attracts mistle thrushes and bullfinches with its opulent red berries from November all the way through to March. This is when food is the most scarce, so winter birds could really use the extra help!
This is a romantic, flamboyant shrub that acts as a bit of a beacon for wildlife. Not only is it loved by birds, but it provides shelter for other wildlife, and hoverflies absolutely love its spring blossoms.
What’s your favourite autumn or winter plant? Let me know in the comments section!
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook – and writes a plant-focused Substack called Grow This, Not That.