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What are Some Good Plants for Birds?

By Cathy Rogers
Updated May 17, 2024
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To attract birds, combine a variety of trees, shrubs, and flowers that will provide nesting areas and winter shelter, as well as year-round food and locations for birds to hide from predators. Plants for birds include those that provide the fruits, berries, grains, seeds, acorns, nuts, or nectar that birds need. Some evergreens -- such as pines, spruces, firs, junipers and others -- provide sap, buds, and seeds. Other evergreens produce berries and seed-filled cones that attract birds.

Nectar-producing plants attract hummingbirds and orioles. Plants for birds also include oaks, hickories, buckeyes, chestnuts, butternuts, walnuts, and hazels because they provide nuts and acorns that are attractive to some birds. Other good plants for birds include berry producing shrubs and ground covers.

Plants that lose their leaves in the winter usually provide the best food source potential and also offer protective nesting areas in the leaf-bearing months. To attract birds that eat fruits or berries, provide cherry, honeysuckle, blackberry, elderberry, or similar plants. These summer-fruiting plants for birds will attract brown thrashers, cat birds, robins, thrushes, woodpeckers, cardinals, and other birds.

For fall, include shrubs and vines such as dogwoods, mountain ash, and winterberries to provide nutrition for both migratory birds traveling through and non-migratory birds that need energy for the winter. Winter food sources to include in your yard include glossy black chokeberry, snowberry, American highbush cranberry, and chinaberry. Other plants for birds that produce fruits that survive in winter include Siberian and red splendor crabapple, bittersweet, sumacs, eastern and European wahoo, and Virginia creeper.

Seed-eating birds prefer that you allow your garden go to seed, as opposed to removing dead or wilted plants. By using plants for birds that are native to your region, you can be more assured of their survival, and birds will be more familiar with them also. It is also important to provide a water source, whether it's a pond, water garden, or bird bath. For shelter, include tall grasses, hollow trees, shrubs, and bird houses.

Because some birds -- including tree swallows, house wrens, brown thrashers, and orioles -- eat insects, consider creating a natural woodland atmosphere in part of your yard. Fallen leaves, a brush pile, or dead trees can provide insect diets for birds that forage the ground for food. These areas will also provide nesting sites for birds such as woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees. Some birds, like tree swallows and house wrens, will also control insects for you.

Keep in mind that some birds like border plants. Good plants for birds like hummingbirds, phoebes, titmice, and orioles include lush plants that have berries, seeds, and insects placed along the borders of a yard or driveway. Birds and butterflies also are attracted to brightly colored flowers and fruits.

It is wise to create a multi-season plan to include good plants for birds in your yard. Protect the birds you attract by cautiously using herbicides and pesticides. Read the labels carefully and apply only when necessary. Also protect the birds you attract from domestic cats.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By SarahSon — On Jun 28, 2011

I never get tired of hummingbirds, and always try to keep a couple feeders full of food for them. I have also seen them visiting my catmint plants several times.

These perennial plants have a light purple flower and look more like a bush than a plant. They will also self seed and spread easily. It seems like I am constantly pulling seedlings that have transplanted themselves.

The blooms must be shaped in a way that makes it easy for the hummingbirds to gather nectar from them, because I see them there often.

By julies — On Jun 26, 2011

I have two butterfly bushes planted outside my office window and I understand how this bush got its name. These bushes grow very quickly and will produce blooms the first year.

If you are looking for plants for butterflies, this is one you will want to consider. The first year I planted these I could not believe the number of butterflies who visited those bushes while they were in bloom.

Some of them can get quite large, but an employee at the garden center said they will never outgrow their space, so you can keep them the right size for your area.

By myharley — On Jun 25, 2011

Birds love sunflower plants. I had a bright sunny location where I planted a row of sunflowers hoping to attract some honeybees. I had honeybees, bumble bees and a lot of birds that enjoyed those sunflowers. The birds really love the seeds they produce.

I planted a dwarf variety because I did not want them to get as tall as regular sunflowers. Many came up the following year as volunteer plants. I always try to have garden plants that not only look attractive but serve a dual purpose to also help feed birds and insects.

By lokilove — On Feb 08, 2010

I find the easiest way to attract the falcons around here is to provide a steady diet of chubby little mourning doves. I feed them a wild seed mix regularly and they are happy and the falcon and owls are happy.

Unfortunately I'm not much of a green thumb and can't seem to keep the plants that the hummingbirds like alive for very long. So I have nectar feeders scattered throughout the yard. I have a few regulars and this year when the migration went through some decided to stay I think!

Article mentions chinaberry, I have one, but I have never seen any bird eating anything from it. What bird feeds off of the chinaberry?

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