9 Best Native Trees for Birds and Wildlife in the UK

If you want to attract birds to your backyard in the UK, there are different tree species to consider. British native trees are mostly deciduous and lose their leaves in the winter. They are bright and vibrant in the summer and provide fruit that is highly nutritious to the local wildlife. Branches and thick foliage provide good nesting spots for birds and offer protection from predators. Further, some birds can burrow into the barks to build nests and little nooks that are home for small invertebrates. 

Consider planting the following trees in your garden to help the local ecosystem and attract birds

1. Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
Marcu Ioachim/Flickr

Hawthorn is a small native tree characterized by scented white flowers that bloom in the spring. They attract bees and other pollinators. The flowers give way to bright red berries which are devoured in the winter by birds such as redwings, thrushes and fieldfares.

The dense foliage makes the tree a good nesting shelter for many bird species. The leaves and flowers are edible and make great addition to salads. Hawthorn is vulnerable to aphid attacks and fire blight. 

  • Grows well in full or partial shade. 
  • Thrives in wet, well-drained, clay soils. 

2. Rowan/Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia)

Mountain Ash (Sorbus Americana)
Photo by tuchodi on Flickr

Rowan is a UK native tree characterized by pinnate or lobed leaves with darker tops and pale grey-green undersides. The flowers of Rowan contain both male and female parts. They are borne in clusters and bear creamy-white petals.

They bloom in the spring and have a sweet smell that attracts insects and pollinators. The flowers give way to orange berries in the autumn which are a food source for many birds such as starlings, redwings, thrushes, redstart, waxwings and blackbirds and small animals. Rowan is naturalized to the highlands and cooler regions of the UK. The berries of Rowan are edible and rich in vitamin C. 

  • Grows best in full sunlight or partial shade. 
  • Thrives in moderately fertile, well-drained, acidic soils rich in humus. 

3. Silver Birch/ The Lady of the Wood (Betula pendula)

Silver Birch/ The Lady of the Wood (Betula pendula)
Bernard Spragg. NZ/Flickr

Silver birch is a native tree known for its silver-white bark. It is a medium-sized deciduous tree. Silver birch has light green, triangular-shaped, serrated leaves which turn yellow in the autumn.

It produces yellow-brown leaves that bloom from April to May. They give way to dark crimson berries, appearing as clusters of tiny seeds in the autumn. The seeds are devoured by redpolls, greenfinches and siskins. Woodpeckers nest in the trunk of the silver birch. The tree is low maintenance and can grow in different conditions. Propagates by seeds in the autumn. 

  • Grows well in full sunlight or partial shade. 
  • Prefers dry, sandy, well-drained, acidic soils. 

4. Blackthorn (Prunus spinose)

Blackthorn (Prunus spinose)

Blackthorn is a popular tree in the UK, characterized by a dark brown bark, thorny twigs and dense branches. The tree can live for up to 100 years and reach a mature height of 7m. The foliage of blackthorn is oval, serrated and slightly wrinkled.

Native moth caterpillars feed on the leaves. The foliage also serves as protection for nesting birds from predators. White flowers bloom between March and April. They are nectar-rich and attract bees and other pollinators. They are followed by small blue-black berries. 

  • Grows well in full sunlight or partial shade.
  • Thrives in moist, well-drained soils. 

5. Crab apple (Malus sylvestris)

Crabapple (Malus)
Photo by niehoff on Flickr

Crab apple trees are native to Europe. The small scented pink or white flowers blossom in the spring. They are rich in nectar and are a good food source for bees and other small insects. They are followed by small bitter fruits in the autumn.

Blackbirds, thrushes and redwings feed on the berries. Crab apple fruit is also eaten by small mammals such as mice, badgers and foxes. The berries are edible and used in making jellies and jams. The wood is valuable for timber and the bark can be used to produce dyes. 

  • Grows well in full sunlight or partial shade. 
  • Thrives in fertile, moist, well-drained soils. 

6. Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Hazel (Corylus avellana)
Andreas Rockstein/Flickr

Hazel occurs naturally in the lowland forests around Europe, northern Africa and Asia. The yellow blooms appear in the spring and turn into hazelnuts which are popular among local wildlife.

The nuts are a favorite food for woodpeckers, thrushes, jays and red squirrels. Moth caterpillars feed on the leaves. Hazel provides perfect nesting sites for birds such as yellowhammer, willow warblers, nightingale and nightjar. 

  • Thrives in shady conditions. 
  • Grows well in most soils. It prefers well-drained, wet soil. 

7. Holly (Ilex aquilinum)

American Holly (Ilex opaca)
Photo by Paul VanDerWerf on Flickr

Holly is an evergreen tree native to woodland and scrub areas of the UK and Europe. The tree is dioecious and produces white blooms in the spring. They are followed by scarlet berries which persist through the winter.

The flowers are rich in nectar and pollen, offering great value to bees and other pollinators. The berries provide vital nourishment for birds, mice and dormice in the winter. Holly provides protection and shelter for birds over tough cold weather. The tree is preferred for its ornamental value over the Christmas holiday. 

  • Grows well in full sunlight or partial shade. 
  • Thrives in well-drained, slightly acidic soils. 

8. Wild Cherry (Prunus avium)

Wild Cherry (Prunus avium)

Wild cherry is characterized by bright white flowers that appear in the spring. The dark green leaves transform into a crimson color in the autumn. In early summer, bright red fruits appear and are popular with birds such as thrushes and blackbirds and small mammals such as dormouse, wood mouse, badger and yellow-necked mouse. The foliage is devoured by moth caterpillars. 

  • Thrives in full sunlight or partial shade.
  • Grows well in fertile, well-drained soils. 

9. English Oak (Quercus robur)

English Oak (Quercus robur)
Terry Kearney/Flickr

The English oak Long yellow blooms are produced in the spring, and followed by green or brown acorns. The flowers are a food source for the caterpillars of the purple hairstreak butterflies. The tree bark supports nesting for marshtits, redstart and pied flycatcher. Bats rest on the tree and feed on insects in the tree canopy. Squirrels, badgers, deer and other native birds feed on the acorns during the autumn. 

  • Grows well in full sunlight or partial shade.
  • Thrives in wet, fertile, well-drained soils. 


There are a variety of native trees that you can plant in the UK to attract birds and other small mammals to your garden. Choose species that are appropriate for your soil and climate. Incorporate conifers and fruit trees of different heights and flower colors to increase the visual appeal to birds and other humans in your locality.