Plants to Attract Birds: A Comprehensive Guide for Bird Lovers

Attracting birds to your garden can be a delightful experience, as it not only brings life and beauty to your space but also supports local wildlife. With careful plant selection, food provision, and shelter creation, your garden can become a bird-friendly haven. By incorporating native plants, trees, and shrubs that provide food and nesting opportunities, you set the stage for a bustling and lively outdoor area where birds can thrive.

When planning your garden, it is essential to consider the types of birds you want to attract and adorn your space with native plants that cater to their specific needs. Trees and shrubs offer vital nesting opportunities, while flowers can provide rich nectar sources for various bird species. By providing diverse food sources, your garden will turn into a paradise for birds all year round.

Furthermore, incorporating different plants and structure types will not only keep your outdoor area visually engaging but also provide shelter and protection for birds. Strategically placing bird feeders, birdhouses, and birdbaths can help complete the perfect bird-friendly habitat, giving them a safe and welcoming environment to call home.

Key Takeaways

  • Choose native plants, trees, and shrubs to attract local birds and support their natural habitat.
  • Offer diverse food sources through flowering plants and provision of bird feeders, promoting year-round visits by different bird species.
  • Create shelter and nesting opportunities with varied garden structures, birdhouses, and birdbaths to provide a safe bird haven.

Garden Design: Planning and Planting

Creating a garden that attracts birds requires careful planning and planting to ensure your backyard becomes a haven for our feathered friends. By focusing on native plants and planting for the seasons, you can create an ideal environment for birds while also beautifying your outdoor space.

Read Next: Flowers to Attract Birds

Native Plants

Using native plants in your garden is essential for providing the best possible habitat for birds. Native species are already well-adapted to your local environment, and they tend to attract a greater variety of birds than non-native plants. Additionally, native plants often require less maintenance and provide better support for the local ecosystem.

Some examples of native plants that attract birds include:

  • Flowering plants, such as zinnias and serviceberry
  • Fruit-producing plants, like blackberries, mulberries, and raspberries; these not only add color and interest to your garden but also provide essential food sources for fruit-eating birds.

When selecting plants for your garden, it’s important to choose a diverse range of species to provide birds with the food and shelter they need, while also considering their specific needs throughout the seasons.

Planting for the Seasons

To create a garden that provides food and shelter for birds year-round, it’s essential to consider the changing needs of your local bird population throughout the seasons. This can be achieved by incorporating plants that offer a variety of food sources, as well as nesting and resting spaces, during the different seasons.

Some tips for planting for the seasons include:

  • Spring: Choose plants that produce nectar, berries, or seeds in the spring, such as flowering shrubs and trees. This will provide returning and migrating birds with much-needed food after a long winter.
  • Summer: Include flowering plants that provide nectar for hummingbirds or long-stemmed plants with seed heads, like zinnias, which attract seed-eating birds like goldfinches and chickadees during the breeding season.
  • Fall: Plant fruit-producing trees and shrubs, like serviceberry and blackberries, to provide fuel for migrating birds and winter food sources for your year-round backyard birds.
  • Winter: Evergreen plants, such as pines and hollies, provide important cover and shelter for birds during the cold months. They also add some year-round greenery to your garden.

When designing your bird-friendly garden, consider adding a water feature, such as a birdbath or shallow pond. Providing a source of fresh water will not only attract more birds but also support their overall health and hydration while adding interest and ambiance to your outdoor space. Remember that the key to a successful bird-attracting garden is variety; by incorporating native plants and diverse seasonal planting, you’ll create an environment that both you and your feathered friends will enjoy.

Trees and Shrubs for Birds

Dogwood Trees

Dogwood trees are a fantastic choice for attracting birds to your garden. They produce beautiful flowers in the spring, followed by clusters of red or white berries that birds love, such as robins, bluebirds, and waxwings. These trees not only offer food but also provide nesting opportunities and shelter for various bird species. Dogwoods are also tolerant of wet conditions and can be an excellent addition to any garden.

Holly Trees

Holly trees are another great option for attracting birds. These hardy evergreens provide year-round shelter and protection for many bird species, including cardinals, robins, and sparrows. Holly trees are dioecious, meaning they have separate male and female plants. For the best results, plant several female plants with at least one male plant in proximity, as this will result in abundant berry production. The scarlet berries on the female plants are an essential food source for winter resident birds – a time when other food sources are scarce.

Native Trees

Incorporating a variety of native trees into your landscape is highly beneficial for attracting and supporting bird populations. Native trees tend to be more adapted to the local environment and are often better suited to support local birds.

  • Birch trees: These trees produce seeds that attract various bird species, including finches and siskins. Their catkins can be a source of nesting material as well.
  • White oak: The acorns from white oak trees provide a vital food source for species like woodpeckers, jays, and pigeons. White oaks also offer shelter and nesting opportunities for birds.
  • Eastern red cedar: This tree attracts birds with its small, blue berries and provides protective cover for various bird species like sparrows, mockingbirds, and quail.
  • Spruces: Spruce trees offer excellent cover, nesting sites, and even a food source for birds like crossbills, chickadees, and nuthatches. The thick foliage of these evergreens creates a safe refuge for birds during harsh winter months.

By incorporating dogwood, holly, and native trees into your garden landscape, you will create a more bird-friendly space. These trees and shrubs not only benefit local bird populations but also enhance the aesthetic value and overall health of your garden.

Flowering Plants to Attract Birds

When planning a bird-attracting garden, several beautiful flowering plants serve as magnets for our winged friends. Let’s explore three popular choices: Aster, Coneflower, and Cardinal Flower.


Asters are related to sunflowers and produce daisy-like blooms in shades of blue, pink, purple, and white. These flowers offer seeds that birds love to feast on, making them a fantastic addition to your garden. When designing your garden layout, consider planting a variety of Aster species to create a colorful and bird-friendly space. Ensure you provide appropriate care for these flowers by learning how to grow Asters.


Coneflowers, also known as Echinacea, are native perennials that bloom with large, daisy-like flowers in various shades of pink, purple, yellow, and orange. They produce abundant nectar, attracting butterflies and other insects, which in turn helps draw insectivorous birds to your yard. Coneflowers are easy to grow and can tolerate diverse conditions, making them an excellent option for a low-maintenance bird-friendly garden. For more inspiration, check out more plants for a bird-friendly yard.

Cardinal Flower

Cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) are striking plants with bright red, tubular flowers that bloom from mid-summer to early fall. The dazzling red flowers are not only a visual treat, but they also attract hummingbirds and other nectar-loving birds. These plants require moist soil and grow well near water sources like ponds. If you have a water feature in your garden, the inclusion of Cardinal Flowers will create a vibrant display and welcome a variety of birds. Learn more about how to attract birds to your yard with these and other plants.

Food Sources for Birds


Seeds are a popular food source for various types of birds. A great choice for attracting birds is planting asters, which produce daisy-like flowers in different shades. Another attractive option is sunflower seeds, which provide nourishment to birds like cardinals, chickadees, and goldfinches.

Additionally, some trees like birch and spruce trees produce seed-bearing cones, which provide birds with sustenance throughout the fall and winter months. Spruce trees also offer evergreen needles as a source of insects in early spring.


Berries are another excellent food source for many bird species. Blackberries are particularly popular as they not only provide fruits and seeds, but also offer nesting habitat, shelter from harsh weather, and foraging grounds for birds like sparrows, warblers, and chickadees.


Insect-rich plants, such as milkweed, are essential in attracting birds to your garden. While milkweed is primarily known for hosting monarch butterfly caterpillars, it also draws various insects that are great for birds. The flowers produced by milkweed not only look beautiful, but they also provide essential fibers to birds like American Goldfinches, helping them weave their nests.


Nectar provides an essential energy source for various bird species, particularly hummingbirds. To attract these birds, consider planting nectar-rich flowers, such as trumpet vines, bee balm, or salvia. These blooms will not only add beauty to your garden but also serve as a great source of nourishment for these charming birds.

Providing Shelter and Nesting Opportunities

Native Plants for Cover

One way to provide shelter and nesting opportunities for birds is by incorporating native plants into your landscape. These plants not only offer essential cover, but also provide food sources throughout the year. For instance, blackberries and wild grasses are excellent options as they produce fruits and seeds for birds to feast on, while also offering nesting habitats and protection from harsh weather. Birds like sparrows, warblers, and chickadees often frequent areas with dense, shrub-like native plants, such as willows and sagebrush.

Virginia creeper is another appealing choice for attracting birds like the red-eyed vireo. This climbing vine offers ample shelter and nesting opportunities in addition to its nutritious berries. Moreover, evergreen plants like pines, spruces, firs, arbor vitae, and junipers are all excellent options for providing shelter and nesting sites for our feathered friends, especially during winters when other plants may not offer as much protection.

Birdhouses and Nesting Boxes

In addition to native plants, birdhouses, and nesting boxes can further enhance your backyard’s appeal to nesting birds. Birdhouses come in various shapes, sizes, and styles, making it easy to find the perfect match for your garden’s aesthetic. Ensure you choose birdhouses designed for the specific birds you wish to attract and install them at appropriate heights for the species. It is essential to regularly clean and maintain the birdhouses to ensure a safe and healthy environment for your avian visitors.

Nesting boxes, on the other hand, usually have a more straightforward design and are often tailored for particular bird species. These boxes provide nesting birds with a secure place to raise their young. Like birdhouses, it is vital to clean and maintain nesting boxes to prevent diseases among the bird population that may use them.

The bottom line: implementing native plants, birdhouses, and nesting boxes in your garden will significantly improve shelter and nesting opportunities for birds. These elements not only create a vibrant and lively environment but also contribute to the welfare of our feathered friends.

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of plants are best for attracting birds?

There are several types of plants that are excellent for attracting birds. These include fruiting plants like blackberries, mulberries, raspberries, and blueberries that draw fruit-eating birds. Other options include native plants, flowers that provide nectar, and seed-bearing plants that offer food for various bird species.

Which flowers are most likely to draw birds to my garden?

Flowers like zinnias are popular among seed-eating birds, while ruby-throated hummingbirds enjoy their nectar. Other bird-friendly flowers include sunflowers, coneflowers, and bee balm, all of which offer food and shelter for birds.

What shrubs should I plant to bring in birds and butterflies?

Shrubs like the crimson bottlebrush are perfect for attracting both birds and butterflies, as they provide food, shelter, and nesting sites. Other good options include butterfly bush, elderberry, and viburnum.

How can I use potted plants to create a bird-friendly space?

Potted plants can be a great way to create a bird-friendly habitat, especially in limited spaces such as balconies or patios. Consider using native plants in pots to offer birds food and shelter. You can also add colorful flowers that produce nectar or seeds, like zinnias, sunflowers, or coneflowers, to attract different bird species.

Which native plant species are most beneficial to local bird populations?

The best native plant species for your local bird population will depend on your region. You can use the Audubon’s Native Plant Database to find suitable plants for the birds in your area. Native plants provide a range of benefits for birds, as they offer food, shelter, and nesting sites that are adapted to the specific needs of your local bird species.

What perennial flowers should I plant to encourage birds in my yard?

Perennial flowers which return year after year, are ideal for supporting birds in your garden. Some great options include coneflowers, blanket flowers, bee balm, and salvia. These plants not only add beauty to your yard but also provide nectar, seeds, or habitat for various bird species.

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