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Create Safe Bird Habitats With Climbing Roses

At a very young age, Connie learned from her Grandma Pearl to observe and love backyard birds. She stills feeds and studies them every day.

I sometimes think to myself, if I were a bird, where would I most like to live? I know that probably isn’t what normal people think about. But hey, what can I say—I’m a bird nerd! As a bird, I want to live where it is safe, where there is plenty of food, stuff to make nests with, and lots of high perches where I can watch for possible trouble. Come to think of it, that would work for me as well!

Male Northern Cardinal perched high in a tree checking out his territory.

Male Northern Cardinal perched high in a tree checking out his territory.

Climbing Roses Provide Birds With:

  • Food in the form of rose hips; flowers, caterpillars and lots of other insects
  • Fragrance, which in turn attracts insects
  • Shelter from bad weather and hot sun
  • Safe nesting places
  • Nesting Materials
  • Vantage Points from which to watch for approaching predators
  • Hiding Places from predators

Male Northern Cardinal foraging under feeders.  They love sunflower seeds, but they go crazy for pumpkin seeds!

Male Northern Cardinal foraging under feeders. They love sunflower seeds, but they go crazy for pumpkin seeds!

'Robin Hood' Climbing Rose Bush is loaded with flowers, thorns, beneficial insects and nesting spots!

'Robin Hood' Climbing Rose Bush is loaded with flowers, thorns, beneficial insects and nesting spots!

'Home Sweet Home'

Okay, so if you picked number 1 in the Poll, 'in a climbing thorny rose bush', then you are probably a Northern Cardinal. You know that you can easily find a tasty morsel to offer your intended life mate, and that you can hide your family from sky-born and 4-footed predators. She will be most impressed with your selection of living quarters!

Being that gorgeous male Northern Cardinal, you also know that you are in for a rough breeding season. You’d better be well fed and in tip-top shape if you’re going to survive to see another winter. Good thing there is plenty of protein available within that climbing rose. Mrs. Northern Cardinal is a gifted nest builder, but you will be providing all the raw materials. Once she lays her eggs, she needs to be fed until they have hatched. Mama does not feed her babies; that is up to the Mr.

Female Northern Cardinal needs lots of feeding by her mate during the breeding season.

Female Northern Cardinal needs lots of feeding by her mate during the breeding season.

Male Northern Cardinal needs to forage constantly to keep his mate fed, while she waits for her eggs to hatch.

Male Northern Cardinal needs to forage constantly to keep his mate fed, while she waits for her eggs to hatch.

Video from Heirloom Roses with tips on pruning roses and using extra Rose Hips in Arrangements

You have yet another duty, and that is to make sure predators like squirrels, snakes, chipmunks, raccoons, owls, hawks, northern shrikes and blue jays stay away from your family. As a devoted and attentive family guy, you will run yourself ragged feeding both your mate and the newly-hatched nestlings.

Oh no, what is the Mrs. up to now? Just great! She’s off building yet another nest, and will need nourishment once again as she awaits the next bunch of baby Cardinals! The Mr. just finished coaxing the last fledgling out of the first nest, and his day isn’t done yet. He’ll still have to stand guard to make sure the wobbly young flyers don’t run into a situation they aren’t yet equipped to handle.

Papa will also have to teach the youngsters how and where to find their wild food. Talk about the ultimate multi-tasker! This will go on as many as 4 times during the breeding season. Mr. and Mrs. Northern Cardinal, you are quite the amazing dude and dudette!

Nutritious Rose Hips

In the late summer and early fall when all the babies have ventured out on their own, rose bushes produce nutritious treats known as rose hips. There is more vitamin C in rose hips than in oranges! These will help sustain birds into the winter months.

If you choose to plant a hedgerow of climbing roses, you will have oceans of rose hips for you and your birds. Not all climbing rose bushes produce rose hips, so be sure to check that out first.

Where to Find These Roses

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'A Shropshire Lad' David Austin English Climbing Rose

'A Shropshire Lad' David Austin English Climbing Rose

2 Excellent Heirloom Climbing Rose Varieties For You and Your Birds to Enjoy

Dortmund developed in 1955 is vigorous and grows from 15 to 30 feet in zones 5-9 ; it develops rose hips after all the flowers have died back. It is a brilliant lipstick red with yellow stamens and sports prolific canes and thorns. Keep it trained on a high trellis, or the side of a building where it will not snag the unwary passerby! This one will surely attract birds with its abundant foliage and promise of safe shelter and nesting locations.

David Austin English Rose 'A Shropshire Lad' grows between 5 and 8 feet tall and is cold hardy in zones 4 - 9; the color is a soft yellow peachy pink and is extremely fragrant. This vigorous tea rose will do very well as a hedgerow in full sun, but tolerates some shade. Large rose hips develop in late summer to early autumn, and will provide a tasty treat for lots of fruit and berry-eating birds like Northern cardinals, titmice, cedar waxwings and catbirds.

My Wild Climbing Rose Bush provides sweet fragrance, and lots of tangles to thwart predators.  In the fall it has loads of rose hips.  Cardinals regularly nest here, as well as titmice.

My Wild Climbing Rose Bush provides sweet fragrance, and lots of tangles to thwart predators. In the fall it has loads of rose hips. Cardinals regularly nest here, as well as titmice.

More Advantages of Planting Roses for Birds

In addition to the fruit produced by the roses in the fall, there are all manner of caterpillars, larvae and assorted bugs and spiders present throughout the summer months. And don’t forget about the nectar-rich flowers that attract not only birds, but butterflies, beneficial insects, and bees. Plenty of overwintering insects and spiders hide under, along, and inside bark and branches. They may be freeze dried, but they still taste good to a bird when the snow covers the ground and its tummy is growling!

Building materials are handy and include leaves and small twigs. When the weather is nasty, dense canes and foliage keep Mom, Pop and babies cozy and dry. In short, climbing roses are a one-stop shop for many nesting pairs.

If you happen to be the Neighborhood Watch bird, then a rose bush gives you superb vantage points in all directions for spotting approaching predators, while you stay safely hidden from view.

Your backyard birds will find these plants irresistible (including Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal)!

4 Basics of Growing Roses from White Flower Farm

How to Get the Most Rose Blooms on Your Trellis from

Roses Attract Beneficial Insects

Fragrant roses are irresistible to butterflies, honeybees, and other pollinators, too. I am always looking for ways to restore habitat for all wildlife, and that includes our disappearing bees. The mysterious 'honeybee colony collapse' syndrome that has been decimating our honeybee hives is due, at least in part, to the profuse overuse of toxic chemical insecticides and herbicides. These poisons are indiscriminate and kill all insects and plants.

A part of our native songbird population has decreased by as much as 60% in the last several decades. This is a direct result of chemicals and loss of habitat. The situation can be turned around, but it will have to be done soon. We risk losing whole species of birds!

I think the best solution is to plant lots and lots of native flowers, bushes, shrubs and trees to attract natural insect controls like birds and beneficial insects. Anything we can do to increase the bird population and eliminate the toxins in our environment is essential to restoring a more natural balance.

Grandma Pearl  a/k/a/ Connie Smith

Grandma Pearl a/k/a/ Connie Smith

'You can create yard and garden habitats that Help Birds to Survive and Thrive'

Read more by visiting grandmapearl on

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Tell Me About the Birds in Your Rose Garden!

Connie Smith (author) from Southern Tier New York State on September 15, 2013:

Jill, I very much enjoyed reading about your experience with birds nesting in climbers. Birds are definitely opportunistic when it comes to safe nesting spots! I'm sure that you will have success with your own climbing rose bush, or any dense vine that grows vertically. And thank you for your compliments--I'm smiling all over the place!

Volunteering at a rose garden sounds like a very fragrant and 'thorny' endeavor. And even though the birds cuss at you the whole time, I'm sure your efforts make their park habitat a glorious place to call home! Always a pleasure to see you, my friend ;) Pearl

Jill Spencer from United States on September 14, 2013:

I volunteer at a park rose garden, and every year as we're deadheading and bolstering up the two climbers, we're fussed at by angry birds who are afraid that we're going to bother their nests. (We don't, of course.) I'd no idea birds nesting in climbers was common until reading your hub. Hopefully when we plant a climber this March, it'll take off and be a home to a few bird families. Enjoyed the hub very much. It would make a great HOTD!

Connie Smith (author) from Southern Tier New York State on August 04, 2013:

Thank you pstraubie! I am so glad you have planted a climbing rose. I just love mine, and so do the birds. My bushes have already started to form rose hips, so I know there will be a good crop for my cardinals and titmice come autumn. Did you know that if you plant garlic nearby, it will discourage black spot fungus on the leaves? My 94-year-old aunt told me about that a couple of weeks ago. Luckily, I do have a lot of garlic growing all around my gardens. I thank you very much for the angels, and I hope you have a pleasant and lovely day ;) Pearl

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on August 03, 2013:

I have just planted a climbing rose bush a few weeks back. It is very small at this point but I am thrilled to know of its attraction and value to birds for a number of reasons.

Thank you for sharing this.

Angels are on the way to you today ps

LongTimeMother from Australia on July 09, 2013:

Awesome hub! I'm sharing it with other bird nerds. :)

Connie Smith (author) from Southern Tier New York State on July 04, 2013:

Scribenet, that's awesome! Sounds like you have a great wildlife habitat, including the roses. It doesn't take a lot to make a bird happy, and you have the great benefit of a gorgeous garden to boot! Good for you--I heartily applaud your efforts towards all wildlife, but especially for the birds. Keep up the great work, and thanks so much for this great comment. You have made my day!

;) Pearl

Maggie Griess from Ontario, Canada on July 02, 2013:

This year I have noticed my flower garden has become a little wildlife habitat...groundhog, rabbit, squirrels, chipmunks and I have noticed birds of all types prancing around and under the plants catching bugs ( I assume). I feel quite happy to have made so many critters happy and best of all the garden looks great. Who would have though!

Guess the birds like the roses...I have nine which includes one climber! :)

Connie Smith (author) from Southern Tier New York State on June 30, 2013:

Hi Deb! There was a young cardinal at the feeder just this morning. The male was close by in a tree, but he let the youngster 'do its own thing'. I really admire the cardinals and their sense of family.

My goldfinches appear rarely this time of year. In the spring and fall they are more plentiful.

Thanks for your visit, and the great comments ;) Connie

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on June 29, 2013:

There are a few cardinals around here, and I have actually seen a few pair of Goldfinches, which is a real treat. For some reason, they usually head elsewhere. This was a good introduction for how to get your own cardinals into your area.

Connie Smith (author) from Southern Tier New York State on June 28, 2013:

bravewarrior, thank you for your kind comments. I hope to soon be able to get a turbo-speed connection to the internet; that is, after some of my taller trees are topped out. Every time the wind blows or it rains, which it seems to be doing nearly every day this season, my internet connection drops out. It's frustrating, and it puts me further behind. I would definitely like to write for a garden or bird watching magazine. And your enthusiastic support along with billybuc's has me heading in that direction! You don't know how much confidence your encouragement has given me--thank you!

My cardinals move from the wild climbing roses to the oaks and maples and back again. I know they like to make sure their territory is secure by using the treetops. They generally head for the bird bath at twilight when all the other birds have 'called it a day', but sometimes when it is really hot and humid, they take an afternoon dip ;) Pearl

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 27, 2013:

Pearl, I don't have very good luck with roses. I've tried several times, but they just don't do very well in my yard. One type that is pretty much foolproof is the Knockout Rose. They are a low-growing bush that can live thru dry spells as well as our rainy season and don't require as much TLC as other types.

The Cardinals we have here flit about between the oaks and camphor trees. They do seem to like to be high up in the trees. They like my birdbath too, on a hot day.

Wonderful presentation once again, Pearl. You should look into writing for gardening magazines.

Connie Smith (author) from Southern Tier New York State on June 27, 2013:

Hi Mary, I'm glad to see you as always! That bird might just be one of two I can think of that resemble Catbirds. One is the Mockingbird, which is about 1" larger with quite a long tail and a little bit longer beak. They are mimics just like the Catbirds, only much more raucous, except possibly when they are nesting. They also love to use shrubs and dense rose bushes to protect their nestlings.

The other bird is a Northern Shrike, which is about 10", the same size as a Mockingbird, but it has a slight hook at the end of the beak. The gray/white/black colorations are the similar in all 3 of these birds. And an interesting thing about the Shrike is that it often impales its prey on thorns! They are cool birds in that they do away with a lot of small rodents and bugs .Did you know that the Gray Catbird is known in the south as a Black Mockingbird?

Thank you so much for the votes. I always love to read your comments ;) Pearl

Connie Smith (author) from Southern Tier New York State on June 27, 2013:

Billy, my Mentor, if I am doing well it is because I am trying to take all of your good advice to heart. You are a wonderful friend and teacher, and I truly thank you. Your comments give me encouragement and good vibes; your 'never-say-die' attitude and work ethic are an inspiration. When I want to just kick back and forget the whole thing, I think to myself "what would Bill say?". And then I am determined to write for at least 20 minutes. You know what? That 20 minutes turns into 90 minutes or more!

Take care, my friend ;) Pearl

Mary Craig from New York on June 26, 2013:

I was totally attracted to the title of this hub because we have had cardinals make their nests in our rose bush for three years now. This year a pair of birds we call catbirds (but they have longer beaks and tails) are building their nest there. I could never figure out why the rose bush but now I know!

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 26, 2013:

You always start your hub with a dynamic sentence, something I always tell writers when they are starting out, but few listen. Your articles are a pleasure to read my friend. You are doing well.

blessings always


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