Prairie Lakes Audubon Chapter Annual Picnic and Bird Banding Event

As the garden catalogs fill your mailbox, and you start making plans for your yard and garden next year, don’t forget about the birds. Gardens are outdoor sanctuaries for birds, insects, and other wildlife and every spring, migrating birds visit yards looking for nourishment and protection to raise their young. Birdscaping is the intentional effort to provide a natural setting to attract wildlife, especially birds, to an area, most typically your own backyard. 

Most landscaping plants in nurseries are exotic species that are prized for qualities that make them poor food sources for wildlife. Some can even become invasive. By adding native plants to your yard, balcony, garden, or rooftop, you can help birds in the face of climate change, urban development, and other threats.

There are many different ways you can provide a bird-friendly landscape. Here are some examples of plants you can use to attract different bird species: 

PLANTING FOR BIRDS AND INSECTS

Common Name
Attributes
Attracts

Annuals

impatiens

blooms from summer to first frost; seeds, nectar

bees and other pollinating insects, butterflies, nectar-eating birds (e.g., hummingbirds), birds that eat from seed heads (e.g., chickadees, goldfinches) and birds that eat fallen seeds (e.g., cardinals, native sparrows, House Wrens, robins)

marigolds

pollen, seeds

sunflowers

pollen, nectar, seeds

zinnias

pollen, nectar, seeds

Native Perennials

asters

blooms in autumn; nectar, seeds

bees and other pollinating insects, butterflies, nectar-eating birds (e.g., hummingbirds), birds that eat from seed heads (e.g., chickadees, goldfinches) and birds that eat fallen seeds (e.g., cardinals, native sparrows, House Wrens, robins)

bee balm

nectar, seeds

butterfly weed

blooms early spring; nectar

larval insects, bees, butterflies, hummingbirds

cardinal flowers

nectar

hummingbirds, special favorite of cardinals

common milkweed

nectar

caterpillar larvae, butterflies (monarchs)

joe-pye weed

pollen, nectar, seeds

bees and other pollinating insects, butterflies

penstemon

pollen, nectar, seeds

bumblebee and other pollinating insects, hummingbirds

purple coneflowers

pollen, nectar, seeds

butterflies, birds that eat from seed heads (e.g., chickadees, goldfinches)

rudbeckia

pollen, seeds

bees and other pollinating insects, butterflies

Shrubs/Bushes

  

American highbush cranberry

shade tolerant; berries persist through winter

berry-eating birds (e.g., American Robin, Cedar Waxwing)

serviceberry

flowers April–June, fruits in summer

Trees

black cherry

native; fruit, cover

attracts 429 species of larval insects, attracts birds that eat larval insects (e.g. orioles, Scarlet Tanagers, warblers, woodpeckers), fruit-eating birds like Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Baltimore Orioles, year-round birds like cardinals and chickadees; wilted leaves and twigs are poisonous to livestock

bur oak, white oak

native; acorns, nesting sites

attracts 518 species of larval insects, attracts birds that eat larval insects, acorns attract Blue Jays, turkeys, grouse, Wood Ducks

crab apple

nectar, fruit

attracts birds that eat fruit, berries and nectar

hackberry

native; berries

attracts 41 larval insects, attracts birds that eat larval insects

mountain ash

some varieties native; berries, cover

berry-eating birds, a favorite of Cedar Waxwings, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and Ruffed Grouse

northern white cedar

dense cover, nesting sites

a favorite nesting site for Northern Cardinals

spruces

year-round cover, nesting sites, cones produce seeds

attracts birds that eat seeds from cones: Blue Jays, chickadees, nuthatches, crossbills; another favorite nesting site for Northern Cardinals

white pine

insect habitat, year-round cover, cones produce seeds

attracts 191 larval insects, attracts birds that eat larval insects, Pine Grosbeaks

For more information about native plants that attract birds, visit The Audubon Society’s native plant database at www.audubon.org/native-plants.

Until Next Time, Happy Garden Planning!

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“A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” -Maya Angelou

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