Trees to Attract Birds: A Comprehensive Guide for Bird Lovers

Attracting a variety of bird species to your backyard can bring life and vitality to your outdoor space. One of the most effective ways to create a haven for birds is by selecting and planting trees that cater to their needs for food, shelter, and nesting sites. The right combination of native trees and shrubs will not only provide an aesthetically pleasing landscape but also an essential habitat to support the diverse bird population in your area.

In order to choose the best trees for attracting birds, it’s important to consider factors such as food sources, nesting sites, and bird species common to your region. Native trees and shrubs have evolved alongside local bird populations and are more likely to meet their specific requirements. Furthermore, planting a variety of tree species can attract a wider range of birds, as each species has its own preferences for food and shelter.

Key Takeaways

  • Native trees and shrubs can provide essential food, shelter, and nesting sites for birds
  • Selecting a variety of tree species keeps your landscape diverse, supporting multiple bird species
  • Research the bird species common in your area to identify trees that are the best fit for their needs

Choosing the Right Trees

When deciding on the perfect trees to attract birds to your garden or backyard, it is crucial to consider a few factors. This section will discuss Native Trees vs Non-Native Trees, Deciduous Trees vs Evergreen Trees, and Height and Shape Considerations to help you make an informed decision.

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Native Trees vs Non-Native Trees

Opting for native trees as opposed to non-native ones has several advantages when trying to attract birds. Native trees tend to coexist better with local bird species, providing suitable nesting spots and food sources. For example, in North America, Oak trees make an excellent choice as they are not only majestic but also serve as a vital food source for various bird species.

On the other hand, while non-native trees can also attract birds, they may not provide all the necessary resources, and sometimes, they can become invasive, harming the local ecosystem.

Deciduous Trees vs Evergreen Trees

Deciduous and evergreen trees each have their characteristics that attract birds. Deciduous trees, such as larches, maples, oaks, and willows, shed their leaves annually, providing nesting sites and food sources during specific seasons.

Conversely, evergreen trees, like pines and spruces, have needle-like leaves that stay year-round, offering birds continuous shelter, especially during harsh winter conditions.

Incorporating a mix of both deciduous and evergreen trees in your landscape can provide birds with various resources and a safe refuge throughout the year.

Height and Shape Considerations

The height and shape of trees can significantly impact the types of birds they attract. Smaller trees such as serviceberries, which grow up to 25 to 60 feet high, are perfect for accommodating smaller birds like robins, waxwings, and cardinals.

Larger, densely branched trees like oaks create ideal nesting spots for bigger bird species. Furthermore, trees with different shapes can accommodate varying bird preferences, helping you attract a diverse range of species.

By carefully considering native versus non-native trees, deciduous versus evergreen trees, and height and shape considerations, you can create a welcoming environment that attracts a wide variety of birds to your outdoor space.

Bird-Friendly Planting

Food Sources

Planting a variety of trees and shrubs can provide an array of food sources for birds. Deciduous trees like larches, mesquites, maples, oaks, and willows offer seeds, nuts, and insects for birds to feast on. To attract fruit-loving birds such as robins, bluebirds, and waxwings, consider planting berry-producing shrubs like scarlet berries and dogwood trees, which are a favorite of cardinals, titmice, and bluebirds.

Shelter and Nesting Sites

In addition to food, birds need shelter and nesting sites. Coniferous trees, such as pines and spruces, with their stiff needle-like leaves, offer excellent year-round shelter and protection, especially in regions with cold temperatures and heavy snowfall. Dense, thorny shrubs like the ocotillo provide safe nesting areas and natural barriers against predators.

To encourage nesting, create layers in your landscape by planting trees and shrubs of varying heights and densities. This will not only attract a diverse range of bird species but also create a visually appealing garden.

Water and Bathing Areas

A crucial element in a bird-friendly backyard is the provision of water sources for drinking and bathing. A clean water feature, such as a shallow recirculating bath or a small pond, will attract various bird species, including quail and songbirds.

To make your water feature even more bird-friendly, incorporate native plants that thrive in wet areas, like hardy shrubs that are tolerant of wet conditions. Surrounding water sources with plants will not only provide birds cover and protection but also enhance the overall beauty of your landscape.

Creating a bird-friendly habitat in your backyard consists of offering varied food sources, shelter, and nesting sites, as well as water and bathing areas. By planting a diverse range of trees, shrubs, and native plants, you will invite a multitude of bird species to call your garden home.

Best Trees for Attracting Birds

Fruit and Berry Producing Trees

Attracting birds to your backyard becomes easier when you plant fruit and berry-producing trees. Some popular choices include:

  • Serviceberry: Produces small, sweet berries that are loved by many bird species.
  • Dogwoods: Known for their beautiful flowers, both flowering dogwood and redosier dogwood produce berries, which are an excellent food source.
  • Holly: Often a favorite for various birds, holly trees offer bright red berries throughout the year.
  • Crabapple: Crabapple trees provide food for birds in the form of small fruits.
  • Virginia Creeper: While not technically a tree, Virginia creeper is a vine that grows berries, which are highly attractive to birds.
  • Mulberry: Mulberry trees bear sweet fruits that accommodate many bird species.

Seed and Cone Producing Trees

Birds also enjoy feeding on seeds and cones from several types of trees. Here are some examples:

  • Pine: Pine trees produce cones that contain seeds, attracting numerous birds such as chickadees and finches.
  • Fir: Like pines, fir trees produce cones that provide a valuable food source for birds.
  • White Oak: Acorns produced by white oak trees serve as a hearty meal for several bird varieties.
  • Sunflower: Although not a tree, sunflowers are worth mentioning. Their seeds are highly sought after by a range of birds.

Flowering Trees

Trees with vibrant flowers not only add aesthetic appeal to your garden but also attract various bird species. Some examples include:

  • Dogwoods: As mentioned earlier, flowering dogwood trees produce lovely flowers that draw birds closer.
  • Eastern Redbud: Known for their striking pink blossoms, eastern redbuds are a bird-friendly option.

Trees with Bark and Buds for Foods

Trees with edible bark and buds provide sustenance for birds during the colder months. Examples include:

  • Cedar: Cedar trees, such as redcedar, offer nutritious bark and buds to keep birds well-fed.
  • Hemlock: Hemlock trees are another option for providing food sources in the form of bark and buds.

By incorporating a mix of these trees in your gardening efforts, you’ll create a welcoming environment for a diverse range of bird species. Remember to consider your local climate and growing conditions when selecting trees, ensuring that both the trees and the birds thrive.

Selecting Native Trees by Region

When looking to attract birds to your garden or backyard, it’s important to consider native trees and shrubs that thrive in your specific region. Providing a natural habitat for native birds will not only benefit the local species but also support native insects and overall ecosystem health. The following sub-sections discuss native trees to consider for each region in the United States.

Western Region Trees

The Western region’s diverse climate and terrain offer several native tree options to attract birds:

  • Douglas fir: This evergreen tree provides year-round shelter, supports native insects, and produces small, nutrient-rich seeds for birds.
  • Juniper: These hardy trees and shrubs create an essential source of shelter and food, with their berry-like fruits, particularly for Cedar Waxwings.
  • Western red cedar: This long-lived evergreen offers year-round shelter for birds and is a favorite nesting spot for many species.

Midwestern and Central Region Trees

Native trees in the Midwestern and Central regions can provide food, shelter, and nesting areas for a wide range of birds:

  • Birch: These deciduous trees offer a habitat for insects, which in turn attract birds; they also produce seeds that serve as a food source.
  • Oak: An excellent source of acorns, oaks support a plethora of bird species and offer a stable environment for them to nest and feed.
  • Willow: Their caterpillar-attracting leaves provide a valuable food source for birds, while their dense branching creates nesting opportunities.

Southern Region Trees

In the Southern region, the following native trees can help attract birds:

  • Longleaf pine: With foliage that offers both shelter and nesting materials, this tree also provides an abundant source of seeds for bird consumption.
  • Tulip poplar: Boasting large flowers that attract insects and produce seeds, these trees are a great option for supporting native birds and pollinators.
  • Southern magnolia: This evergreen tree is home to many insects and offers year-round shelter, as well as nesting spaces for birds.

Eastern Region Trees

To attract a diverse selection of birds in the Eastern region, consider the following native trees:

  • Sassafras: This versatile tree, with its unique leaves and fruit production, attracts a variety of birds and provides shelter and nesting sites.
  • Dogwood: Its fruit, foliage, and flowers offer food and shelter to birds, while also serving as home to native insects and pollinators.
  • Eastern white pine: Providing year-round refuge for birds and a nesting habitat for many species, this tree also supports insects and offers a valuable food source with its seeds.

Incorporating these region-specific native trees and shrubs, in combination with climate-resilient plants, can significantly enhance your efforts to create a thriving habitat for local bird populations and contribute to a healthier ecosystem overall.

Supporting Wildlife Beyond Trees

Attracting Insects

One important aspect of supporting wildlife beyond trees is attracting beneficial insects. Many birds depend on insects as a major food source, especially during breeding season. A great way to attract insects is by planting a variety of native flowers that provide pollen and nectar. This not only entertains colorful butterflies but also serves as a food source for countless other insects. Boosting insect populations will naturally lead to attracting more birds to your garden.

Adding Native Shrubs and Bushes

In addition to attracting insects, incorporating native shrubs and bushes into your landscape can greatly support bird populations. These plants produce various types of berries, seeds, nuts, and fruits, providing a year-round food source for birds. Additionally, they offer valuable nesting sites and protection from predators.

Some suggestions for native shrubs and bushes to attract birds include:

  • Crab apple (Malus sylvestris): Provides early pollen and nectar for insects and supports caterpillars of various moth species.
  • Holly: Produces winter berries that are crucial for sustaining bird populations during cold months.
  • Juneberry: Offers edible fruits for birds, along with beautiful spring blossoms that attract pollinating insects.
  • Dogwood: This attractive shrub with bright red stems produces clusters of small, white flowers, followed by black berries that birds love to eat.

By integrating native flowers, shrubs, and bushes into your garden to support beneficial insect populations and provide essential resources for birds, you’re creating a thriving ecosystem that offers birds and other wildlife an inviting habitat to call home.

Maintenance and Care

Watering and Fertilizing

Caring for trees that attract birds may involve regular watering and fertilizing to ensure healthy growth. Newly planted trees, in particular, need consistent moisture in the soil to establish a strong root system. Keep an eye on the leaves, as wilting may indicate insufficient water. Water the trees deeply and thoroughly, allowing the soil to dry slightly between watering sessions.

For a healthy tree, consider applying an appropriate fertilizer, especially if the nursery recommends it. Many tree species benefit from the slow-release of nutrients, which promotes strong growth and vibrant foliage. Be sure to follow the recommended application rates to prevent over-fertilization.

Pruning and Trimming

Pruning and trimming is essential to promote healthy tree growth and provide sufficient space for birds to access their food, shelter, and nesting sites. Regularly assess the tree’s canopy and remove any dead, damaged, or diseased branches. This ensures the tree’s energy is directed towards healthy growth.

Trim any crossing branches to avoid rubbing and potential damage, as well as any branches that obstruct paths or encroach on buildings. Pruning is best done during late winter or early spring, when the tree is in its dormant stage. However, if you need to remove broken or diseased limbs, do so as soon as possible.

By properly maintaining your bird-attracting trees, you’ll create an environment that encourages birds to visit your landscape. Paying attention to proper watering, fertilizing, and pruning can make the difference in providing them with a habitat to thrive in.

Protecting Birds and Their Habitats

Protecting birds and their habitats is essential for their survival. In this section, we will discuss two critical aspects of bird conservation: minimizing threats from predators and creating safe nesting sites.

Minimizing Threats from Predators

Predators pose a significant threat to birds, especially fledglings and those in nesting areas. To minimize threats from predators, consider these actions:

  1. Avoid using rodenticides: Many predatory birds, like owls and hawks, can be unintentionally harmed after consuming poisoned rodents. Instead, try humane alternatives for controlling rodents, such as traps or repellents.
  2. Secure garbage bins: Secure your trash cans and compost bins; this will help minimize the attraction of unwanted predators such as raccoons or foxes, which prey upon birds or their eggs.
  3. Install birdhouses and feeders strategically: Place birdhouses and feeders away from areas that offer easy access for predators, like tall bushes or low-hanging branches. This will make it more difficult for predators to reach the birds.
  4. Keep pets indoors or supervised: Domesticated cats and dogs are known to be significant threats to birds, so it’s essential to keep them indoors or supervised when outside.

Creating Safe Nesting Sites

Providing safe nesting sites for birds plays a crucial role in promoting their well-being. Here are a few ways you can create secure and inviting nesting spots for birds in your yard:

  • Plant native trees and shrubs: Native plants are adapted to the specific needs of local birds, providing essential resources for nesting. They also offer natural protection from predators. Consult the Audubon Society’s Native Plant Database to find plants suitable for your region.
  • Provide nesting boxes: Traditional birdhouses and nesting boxes provide safe, sheltered spaces for birds to lay their eggs and raise their young. When installing them, consider the preferences and needs of the specific bird species you wish to attract.
  • Offer nesting materials: Providing natural materials like sticks, grass, or even small strips of natural fibers can encourage birds to build nests in your yard.

By taking these measures, we can help ensure the survival of birds by minimizing threats from predators and providing safe nesting sites.

Frequently Asked Questions

What species of trees are best for attracting birds?

There are several species of trees that can attract birds to your yard. Some of the best options include maple (Acer), birch (Betula), and spruce trees. Maples provide seeds for birds and small mammals, while birch trees have beautiful bark and their conelike strobiles serve as a food source for both birds and mammals 1. Spruce trees, on the other hand, offer excellent shelter and nesting sites for various bird species 2.

Which native trees are suitable for birds in my region?

To find the most appropriate native trees for your region, you should consider local climate, soil type, and the specific needs of the birds you want to attract. A good place to start is contacting local nurseries, nature centers, or extension offices for advice on native plants and trees suited to your area.

What types of trees attract both birds and butterflies?

Several trees can attract both birds and butterflies. For example, maple trees serve as host plants for almost 300 butterfly and moth species 1. Remember, having a diverse selection of trees in your landscape can help create a more vibrant and balanced ecosystem to support various wildlife.

Which trees are ideal for nesting and resting birds?

Trees with strong branches and good canopy cover are essential for providing nesting and resting spots for birds. Coniferous trees, such as spruce, fir, and pine trees, are great choices because they offer dense foliage, giving birds shelter and protection from predators 2. Deciduous trees like oak and maple can also provide excellent nesting sites for many bird species.

How do fruit-bearing trees help attract various bird species?

Fruit-bearing trees provide an essential food source for many bird species. Fruit, such as cherries, berries, and apples, can attract a wide variety of birds, including waxwings, robins, bluebirds, sparrows, and finches 3. Planting a mix of fruit-bearing trees in your landscape can ensure the availability of food sources throughout different seasons, attracting a diverse array of bird species.

Are there any small trees particularly favored by birds?

Yes, there are smaller tree species that are especially attractive to birds. For example, dwarf conifers like junipers and yews provide berry-like cones that appeal to various bird species 3. Small trees can offer a great alternative for those with limited space in their yards or gardens, still allowing you to create a bird-friendly environment.


  1. Birds and Blooms 2
  2. The Spruce 2
  3. Birds and Blooms 2

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