Grow the right trees to attract plenty of birds to your garden, says Hema Vijay

What’s a garden without some birdlife? Well, you can invite sparrows, mynas, koels, parakeets, sun birds, babblers and their ilk into your garden just by planting the right kind of trees. Of course, in a home garden, there are limitations as to the girth, height, and canopy size of trees and the impact of their roots on concrete structures. Nevertheless, there are a great many varieties of small to medium-sized trees that reach a height of 10 to 15 feet that you can safely grow in your home garden, which birds will find very attractive.

Nuna, a short tree with black fruits; the thorny ilandhapazham or ber tree; the mavalingam tree with its small fruits and attractive flowers; the slow-growing Flame of the Forest with its honey-laden flowers… these are all small to medium sized, hardy and indigenous trees that birds are attracted to. “Birds also find small tress like the irumpuli inviting,” says D. Narasimhan, associate professor, Department of Botany, Madras Christian College.

Apparently, birds love small, fleshy, fragrant or colourful fruits. “Trees with such fruits include the Barbados Cherry, Ivory Wood, Jamaica Cherry, Carpentaria Palm, Macarthur Feather Palm and Orange Jasmine. Unfortunately these trees are rarely seen in home gardens,” says R. Pauline Deborah, professor, Plant Biology, Women's Christian College. However, be careful what you pick. Some species like the Singapore Cherry or Custard Apple, warns Deborah, can turn invasive and pose a threat to native vegetation.

“Custard apple and guava trees attract parakeets, while woodpeckers are attracted to coconut trees, while the Indian Coral, Bauhinia, Thespesia and Moringa attract sunbirds, mynahs, koels, and babblers,” says K.V. Sudhakar, president, Madras Naturalists Society.

Fig and neem trees are a good option for birds as well, but you will need to prune them regularly to keep height and branches in check. Common trees like the mango, tamarind, amla (nellikai), amaltas (kondrai) or gulmohar also attract a lot of birds. Remember, birds feed off fruits, flowers, and honey. A range of trees that provide any of these through the year is the trick to welcoming plenty of birds.

Finally, since a good meal is rounded off with a drink, you might also want to consider creating a water body in your garden, with deterrents for mosquitoes, of course.

Keywords: gardensfruit trees