Quick Tips for Bird-Friendly Plantings

by Cyndi Lieski

Native trees, shrubs, plants and groundcover provide food and shelter for birds throughout the year.

When landscaping for wildlife, consider the amount of space you would like to devote to attracting birds. Also consider the soil type and amount of sunlight your planting areas receive.

There are seven important plant groups to consider when landscaping for birds. Including one or several plants from any or all of these groups in your landscaping can be beneficial to the birds in your neighborhood.

  • Conifers: Evergreen trees and shrubs such as pines, spruces, firs, Arborvitae, and junipers provide shelter, nest sites, and food for many species.
  • Grasses and legumes: Grasslands and smaller stands of grasses and "weeds" can provide cover for ground-nesting birds, though owners must be careful not to mow during nesting season. Grasses can also provide food for many birds.
  • Nectar producers: Flowers with tubular red corollas such as Cardinal Flower, Butterfly Weed and Bee Balm, attract hummingbirds and orioles. Insects attracted to these plants also serve as food for a variety of birds.
  • Summer fruits: Cherry, Chokecherry, native Honeysuckle, Raspberry, Serviceberry, Blackberry, Blueberry, native Mulberry, and Elderberry provide food for many birds in warmer months.
  • Autumn fruits: Dogwoods, Mountain Ash, and other fall-bearing fruit and berry plants provide an important source of food for migratory birds. They allow birds to build up fat reserves before migration and to sustain them on their journey south.
  • Winter fruits: Crabapple, Snowberry, native Bittersweet, sumacs, viburnums, Cranberry, Virginia Creeper, and Winterberry are all valuable for early-returning migratory birds such as Robins and Cedar Waxwings.
  • Nuts and acorns: Oaks, hickories, chestnuts, Butternuts, walnuts, beeches, and hazels provide food for Tufted Titmice, Bluejays, and Wild Turkeys.