Planting Winter Bird Forage

Maddy Harland
Thursday, 20th December 2012

Feeding garden birds is a pleasurable activity that can result in an additional clutch of eggs in summer, so vital for some of our endangered bird species. It can be expensive buying seed and nuts so Maddy Harland recommends we plant bird forage in the permaculture garden to provide winter forage, help balance pest and predators and save money as well. Now that's a virtuous cycle!

An additional benefit of our garden being designed as an organic permaculture food producing system is that it is also a thriving biodiverse wildlife habitat. Birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects keep the pest/predator balance in check. To encourage them into the garden we have planted a mixed native hedgerow (30+ species at last count and growing), including berry bearing species such as rowan, holly, whitebeam, spindle, dog rose, guelder rose, elder, hawthorn, honeysuckle and ivy but we also value cotoneaster, pyracantha and berberis which are especially good forage for a wide range of birds.

Goldfinches are rarely seen unless we put up niger feeders and then they appear within the hour

Pyracantha (see main picture) makes a lovely show of red berries which are only palatable later in winter after hard frosts. Our food producing plants include standard fruit trees, bushes and berry bearing canes and vines, the harvest of which we share with the wildlife who often get there before us or clean up afterwards!

Greater spotted woodpecker outside our kitchen window

One of our great pleasures is additionally feeding the birds in winter with wildbird seed, peanuts, niger seed and fat balls at a feeding station near the kitchen sink window. Winter is therefore great for washing up!

Biodiverse habitat has attracted ants which attracts green woodpeckersBeing on the edge of the countryside we are very lucky to receive many visitors, both common and unusual. Winter is a good time to plant berry and fruit bearing trees, shrubs and hedgerow plants to entice even more birds into your our personal wildlife reserve, which in turn will keep you warm with the glow of satisfaction in the knowledge that you are helping them through the lean times. 


Collins Bird Guide is reputed to be the most complete field guide to British and European birds. Hardback. Special price £20.00  (rrp £24.99) whilst stocks last.