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Home for the Harvest

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Native Plants for Birds

24 native plants for birds

Native plants are a key source of food for birds. Naturally occurring plants grow seeds and berries for the birds and attract protein-rich insects. Many North American plants are also vital for nest-building materials and overall bird habitat. Let’s look at 24 native plants for birds in North America.

sunflower with sunflower seeds in the backyard garden

1. Sunflower

Sunflower (Helianthus) is native to North America and a backyard bird favorite. There are tons of native varieties that are perfect for attracting birds to your yard. Grosbeaks, finches, jays, and robins, in particular, will flock to sunflowers and the sunflower seeds they produce. Leave stalks standing in autumn to provide a source of food for the birds into the cooler months.

2. Serviceberry

Serviceberry (Amelanchier) bushes and trees (also called Juneberry or Saskatoon) are native plants that produce prolific amounts of tiny berries perfect for the bird population in your yard. Cedar waxwings love these little crimson berries, which look a bit like red/purple blueberries.

3. Coral honeysuckle

Coral honeysuckle is a well-known native plant for its ability to attract hummingbirds from near and far to its pink-orange trumpet-shaped flowers. The berries that follow the blooms are food for songbirds like finches and thrushes. Honeysuckle is also a common host plant for moth caterpillars (a yummy birdy treat).

Coral honeysuckle is the perfect addition to any garden, offering a variety of benefits for both birds and other wildlife. It is an ideal choice for planting near bird feeders!

chickadee going into backyard bird house on native evergreen tree
Chickadees nesting above the strawberry patch

4. Strawberry

Strawberry plants make a delicious groundcover plant for visiting birds. The birds love the berries and the insects that the plants attract. Our birds tend to go for the mini wild strawberries, leaving the larger yummy varieties for us!

5. Hibiscus

Native hibiscus species, such as the ever-popular Hibiscus moscheutos, produce large flowers that birds can spot from across the block. These plants are long-blooming, lasting from mid-July until frost. Hardy hibiscus plants are native to eastern North America.

6. Coneflower

Coneflower (Echinacea) is another daisy-family native plant that birds love to visit. Generally purple or pink, these perennial flowers attract birds and keep them coming back to your yard for the seeds as the petals fade.

7. Virginia creeper

Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is a fall favorite for birds attracted to its dark-blue berries. Gardeners are attracted to its autumnal burgundy foliage. While this plant behaves kind of like ivy, it is actually a member of the grape family (hence the attractive berries for the birds!).

8. Redbud

Redbud (Cercis) is a North American native in the legume family with pink flowers that are a hummingbird favorite. The following seeds are a food source for small birds like chickadees and goldfinches. The bark is also a habitat for protein-rich insects.

9. Beautyberry

Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana) produces clusters of lovely pink-purple berries that provide food for birds into wintertime. This medium-sized shrub is native to the southeastern US.

10. Sassafras

The Sassafras tree’s fruit is a major draw for backyard birds such as thrushes, as well as larger birds such as quail, woodpeckers, and even wild turkeys. Birds are attracted to its fragrance and tend to stay for the tree’s ability to attract protein-rich insects and bugs, such as swallowtail caterpillars.

native lupin flowers in spring garden

11. Lupin

Lupin is a perennial flower with many species native to North America. Lupin flowers and seeds are a favorite of birds and gardeners alike. Songbirds love this cottage-garden classic, which naturalizes well in meadows or borders.

12. Hydrangea

Native hydrangeas, such as the popular Annabelle and Incrediball types, produce large, long-lasting flowers that beckon to local birds. While these shrubs don’t produce berries, they are often home to a host of yummy insect treats that birds love.

mountain ash berries - rowan tree up close

13. Mountain ash

Mountain ash (Sorbus) is known for its red-orange clusters of berries, which last on the branches throughout the winter like nature’s Christmas ornaments. Birds such as robins, bluebirds, and waxwings love to snack on these berries and the spring and summer caterpillars that use these trees for their habitat. Look for a North American variety such as American Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana), Showy Mountain Ash (Sorbus decora), or Sitka Mountain Ash (Sorbus sitchensis).

14. Anise hyssop

Anise hyssop (Agastache) is well-known for its backyard wildlife value. Spikes of lavender-blue flowers produce tons of seeds. The birds help these plants to self-seed, often creating a lovely patch of flowers in the garden. Anise hyssop is one of the most-loved plants for pollinator insects and is also one of the most popular native plants for birds.

15. Willow

Willow species native to North America are an early spring draw for birds. The soft catkins that appear before the tree leaves are a hot spot for returning migratory birds. The flower buds are also a food source for cardinals and finches. Look for a native species such as Pacific Willow (Salix lucida), Pussy Willow (Salix discolor), or Coastal Plain Willow (Salix caroliniana.)

16. Summersweet

Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) is a late-summer bloomer perfect for drawing migrating birds to your yard. Also called coastal sweet-pepper bush, this plant is native to the eastern coast of North America, from Canada all the way down to Florida.

17. Black-Eyed Susan

Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) is a lovely yellow daisy-type flower that birds will flock to. The plants are prolific, producing scores of flowers reliably each year, even in the coldest, most untended gardens. Each flower is loaded with lovely seeds that are a favorite of birds like goldfinches.

blueberry shrub - berry close up

18. Blueberry

Blueberry bushes are native plants that provide a host of opportunities for local birds. The spring blossoms bring pollinating insects, the shrubs provide habitat for caterpillars, and the berries themselves are a tasty summer treat.

19. Baptisia

Baptisia are North American native plants with beautiful oval grey-green leaves and pretty lupin-like flowers. A member of the legume family, Baptisia thrives in woodland gardens, meadows, and flowy borders. These plants are a favorite food for certain types of caterpillars which birds love to snack on.

20. Blazing Star

Blazing star (Liatris) is not only a butterfly magnet in the spring, but is also a bird attractant once the seeds form on the tall flower stalks. Many native Liatris species are also cultivated for their use in cut floral bouquets.

21. Aster

Native asters such as New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) and calico aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum) are the perfect native plants to bring into the garden for your local bird population. These late-season flowers bring a splash of color and are available in many different types (and heights) to fit in nicely with your garden design.

22. Sumac

Sumac trees produce long clusters of berries which persist on the branches throughout winter. Bluebirds, flickers, and robins feast on the fruit in cooler conditions. Most cultivated species are North-American native plants (although it is possible to get imported sumac, so check the tag).

23. Dogwood

Native dogwood trees and shrubs are great habitat for caterpillars – a bird’s delicacy. The bright fall berries aren’t bad either! Look for a native species such as flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) or pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii).

native plants for birds such as evergreen trees and serviceberry attract protein-rich food like caterpillars and spiders
A caterpillar hanging from the spruce and pines in our backyard

24. Spruce

Spruce trees and other evergreen conifers native to North America make excellent habitats for small birds like chickadees and can also host larger birds in their upper canopies. Evergreens are also excellent companion plants for bird magnets such as blueberries, serviceberries, and strawberry plants. Use a native evergreen species to anchor a whole plot of various native plants for birds in your area.

“Allow native plants to flourish, either in formal garden beds or by leaving part of your garden a little wild and use natural methods of pest and weed control. These are all critically important for the health of our ecosystem and the wildlife that depends on it.”

Black-Capped Chickadee (Fauna: Birds), The Canadian Wildlife Federation
native honeysuckle flower

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