Hedgerow Wildlife

Dog RoseWhat is a good hedge for wildlife?

Well-managed hedgerows are valuable for wildlife supporting a rich diversity of insects, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibian.  In many lowland areas, hedges are the most significant wildlife habitat remaining.  The health of hedgerows is crucial for the survival of many common as well as more rare species.
 
Native hedge plants such as blackthorn, hawthorn, hazel, dogwood and field maple will support many more species than non-native plants such as garden privet, leylandii and sycamore.  In general terms, the more kinds of tree and shrub a hedge contains, the more wildlife it can support due to different flowering and fruiting times.  The most valuable hedges are those that combine a thick and bushy hedge with a sympathetically managed bank, ditch or grassy margin.

Hedgerow shrub wildlife species supported:

SPECIES NO:
Hawthorn 209
Blackthorn 153
Hazel 106
Beech 98
Field Maple 51

BerriesMammals and reptiles

A mixed species native hedgerow will provide a supply of fruit, berries, nuts, insects, slugs, snails and spiders for a range of mammals.  Hedgehog, common shrew, pygmy shrew, wood mouse and stoat will all use hedges to feed, next or hibernate.  Other species such as dormouse and adder are more likely to be found in hedges that link to other hedges and features such as scrub, woodland or ponds.


Brown Hair Streak ButterflyAmphibians and insects

Certain hedge features are favoured by certain species so a variety of hedge shrubs and management is important.  Amphibians (frogs, newts and toads) favour hedges with ditches and dense ground cover.  The caterpillars of the Holly Blue butterfly, will only be found in hedges containing holly, spindle or dogwood. Another butterfly, the Brown Hairstreak butterfly will only lay its eggs on the young shoots of blackthorn in a hedgerow.

Birds

Birds use hedgerows to feed, find cover, establish breeding territories, nest and raise chicks.  Birds commonly associated with woodland such as blue tit, great tit, wren, blackbird, robin and chaffinch are more common in taller, wider hedges. Birds that favour scrubby or open woodland, such as dunnock, yellowhammer and whitethroat are more common in poor, gappy hedges.  A taller hedge allows nests to be built out of the reach of predators and will therefore be more likely to fledge chicks successfully.


Hedgerow TreeHedgerow trees

Hedgerow trees and uncut hedge tops provide important song posts allowing birds to establish territories in the breeding season.  It is important to select sapling in hedgerows to grow on into the next generation of trees for wildlife and for landscape value.  Oak and ash are valuable, long-lived hedgerow trees supporting a wealth of wildlife species but other native trees can also be left.  Bats, songbirds and lichens, which favour undisturbed conditions, can thrive on mature hedgerow trees.