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Get springing: Top plants, trees, and shrubs to attract birds to your garden

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Are you looking to lure some beautiful birds to your garden? Plant these plants, trees, and shrubs to bring nature back to your city space.

As city dwellers we sometimes forget that we share our bustling urban environments with our beautiful birds and amidst increasing urbanisation, they rely on us now more than ever to provide a sheltered haven in the expanding urban jungle.

By simply planting a tree or shrub, you can do your part to provide birds with a perch to rest on, a safe spot to nest away from danger, and of course, some tasty treats in the form of insects, fruit and nectar which your garden naturally provides.

Trees

Trees provide shelter for birds against the natural elements such as wind and rain as well as a safe place to rest and nest. With the limited space of most urban gardens in mind, we have only listed small to medium trees with non-invasive root systems here that can be planted anywhere.

Tree fuchsia or notsung (halleria lucida)

Tree fuchsia or notsung (halleria lucida) flowers and fruits
Tree fuchsia or notsung (halleria lucida) flowers and fruits

No bird garden is complete without this tree since it attracts a myriad of different species. Its black, fleshy fruits are popular with fruit-eating birds like Rameron Pigeons, Knysna and Purple-crested Louries, Cape Parrots, Kurrichane Thrushes, bulbuls, robins and White-eyes. Its nectar-rich flowers also attract White-bellied and Olive Sunbirds and weavers. Even thrushes which normally pull earthworms out of the ground, feast on fallen fruit. Moreover, birds like woodpeckers are attracted to the flaky bark to look for insects and other creatures that live there.

White karee or witkaree (searsia pendulina)

This tree produces red, blackish fruits that are eaten by Kurrichane Thrushes, Grey Go-away birds, Rock Pigeons, starlings, bulbuls, mousebirds and barbets. This is one of the best trees to attract birds to your garden. This tree is also perfect for a suburban garden because it is quick and easy to grow and tolerates wind and drought.

Glossy-leaf or blinkblaar (rhamnus prinoides)

This tree attracts many fruit-eating birds like starlings, bulbuls, barbets and francolins which enjoy the purple to blackish fruit. This is also a popular tree among beekeepers as a good source of nectar and pollen.

Shrubs

Shrubbery provides birds a safe place for birds to nest in as well as a space to forage around the fallen leaves and mulch on the ground under it. Good shrubs to plant could have colourful, nectar-rich flowers for nectar-feeders, juicy fruits for the fruit-feeding birds – or even both. Shrubs bearing flowers also attract a range of insects for insect-feeding birds to feed on.

Bush tickberry or boetabessie (chrysanthemoides monilifera)

The bush tickberry is one of the most variable and widespread indigenous shrubs of South Africa. This shrub produces sweet berries that are popular with fruit-eating birds like the African Green Pigeon, Fiscal Flycatcher, Red-winged and Glossy Starlings, Crested and Black-collared Barbets, and Collared Sunbirds.

Common bride’s bush or bruidsbos (pavetta gardeniifolia)

 Flowers on the common bride’s bush or bruidsbos (pavetta gardeniifolia)
Flowers on the common bride’s bush or bruidsbos (pavetta gardeniifolia)

This bush produces sweet smelling flowers with sweet nectar that attracts White-bellied and Amethyst Sunbirds, Crested and Black-collared Barbets, Dark-capped Bulbuls, mousebirds, and more.

Dwarf coraltree or kleinkoraalboom (erythrina humeana)

The dwarf coral tree is an ideal shrub for the small garden, especially for those who love the bright red flowers of the common coral tree (erythrina lysistemon) but don’t have enough space for it. This shrub produces nectar, seeds and fruit that are attractive to various birds. Cape Parrots and Collared, Olive and Greater Double-collared Sunbirds feed on nectar while the Grey Go-away bird feeds on flowers and the Brown-headed Parrot eats the unripe seeds.

Climbers and accent plants

Climbers and accent plants can give a beautiful burst of colour and fragrance to an outdoor area and can further act as sources of food and shelter for birds and bees.

Aloes or aalwyne (aloe geattheadii or aloe aborerescens)

Black-eyed Bulbul on Aloe vryheidensis
Black-eyed Bulbul on Aloe vryheidensis

When trying to attracting nectar-eating birds, you will find no better plant than aloes. Aloes are a very important food source to many nectar-feeding birds like sunbirds, Crested Barbets, Cape White-eyes, Black-headed Orioles, Streaky-headed Seedeaters, Yellow-throated Patronias, Dark-Capped bulbuls and Grey Go-away-birds. Larger plants are also favoured for nesting sites.

Starry wild-jasmine or sterretjies-jasmyn (jasminum multipartitum)

This beautiful climber is an excellent choice for a bird garden. The frangrant flowers attract insects to the garden and therefore, insect-feeding birds. The black berries it produces are also popular with fruit-eating birds.

Red-hot poker or vuurpyl (kniphofia praecox)

Red-hot pokers are grown in gardens around the world and come in colours from red and oranges, yellow to lime green and cream. This is a great plant for a bird garden since its nectar-rich flowers attract pollinating insects and sunbirds such as the White-bellied and Amethyst Sunbirds.

If this has inspired you to bring birds to your garden, Briza has the resources you need to build your bird garden and revitalise your birding experience.

Want to learn more about the top indigenous plants to grow in South Africa? Get Creative Gardening Plants with Indigenous Plants a South African Guide.

This is an invaluable, comprehensive guide that covers more than 300 plants including their description, uses in the garden, cultivation, natural habitat, and flowering time, shape, growth requirements, characteristics, or whether it attracts birds and/or butterflies. All this information is indicated by useful icons at the bottom of each species.

After you have filled your garden with these amazing, bird-attracting indigenous plants, why not spend some time to identify and learn about the beautiful birds that now come to visit it?

Briza Publications has the perfect book for you – the Sappi Birds of South Africa. This book with the amazing Callfinder device allows you to unlock bird calls from the amazing birds in the high-quality images provided of over 800 South African birds.

Available in Afrikaans and in English.

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