I am often asked what plants I would recommend for an aviary so I thought I would write about them. I am NOT going to write a huge list of poisonous plants. I have come across a couple of very good sites which have written such a list so please take a look at them if you wish to make sure you do not include anything toxic. The sites are: "HotSpot for Birds" and "The Budgie and Parakeet Place". I have to admit in having a bit more faith in my bird's own knowledge of what is or is not poisonous to them however, especially when elderberry is considered to be a "bad" tree. Our birds enjoy any new sprouting shoots, they peck at bark throughout the winter, and the berries are without doubt high on their favourite list, in fact I have to be extremely quick off the mark to pick fruit from the trees, surrounding our aviaries, as the wild birds tend to be a bit on the impatient side, when waiting on them to ripen, and have them devoured in no time.
There is another plant definitely considered poisonous we DO have in our aviaries, as many pheasants live among them in the wild and do include them in their diet. The Rhododendron. I wanted to try and create a home for our birds, at least a little like the habitat their wild relatives would be used to. As many species are endemic to areas covered with Rhododendrons and bamboo I decided to try a few plants. I have to admit I was somewhat anxious, but as there are a huge amount of poisonous plants that birds eat or nest in without coming to any harm I took a chance. When I then found our young Rhododendrons to be half eaten by the Satyr tragopans.... I panicked. The birds of course knew better, the Rhododendrons were just a tasty snack. They have been enjoying them ever since and have never looked ill at all. In fact they are positively thriving.
We do of course have plants which are edible and definitely tasty to the birds. One of these is bamboo. They are continually nibbled but being a tough spreading plant still manage to survive and grow. Other great survivors are willow & currant bushes. These plants tend to be eaten and yet will continue to grow quite happily. Other plants (mainly shrubs and trees) we use for cover or food are: Beech, Crab apple, Plum, Buddleia (butterfly bush), Dogwood, Snowberry, Cotoneaster, Honeysuckle (mostly the evergreen variety), Rosemary, Hibiscus, conifers (not jaggy ones as the birds are bound to choose the place you can't reach into to lay their eggs or hide when you need to catch them), fennel and ornamental grasses. A few smaller plants readily devoured include more grasses, Dandelion, Chickweed, Nasturtiums and trefoils. I could go on and on about suitable plants but you would soon get bored reading and click off my site.
As we have a lot of birds we do have to try to keep our costs down. We do not want to try an expensive plant, for it to be eaten or dug up. Therefore the plants we have chosen are often ones bought cheaply as hedging. Our most expensive were definitely the bamboos but they were certainly worth a bit extra. Something else we find useful are plants that self seed such as the Pheasant berry, Buddleia, Fennel and many smaller perennials or annuals, this gives us a supply for any new aviaries or bald patches in existing ones. We rarely waste anything and prunings are usually cut big enough to add some extra or fresh cover in the birds shelters. We have bought many of our shrubs from a great company called "Cheviot Trees".
If you are planning a new aviary or replanting an old one I hope we have helped a little. If anyone has a plant in their aviary which they think is utterly fantastic, I would love to know what it is, so please e-mail me.