Would you like to enjoy the beauty of migrating and resident birds in your outdoor spaces? The secret is to make your gardens a welcoming place with the right type of landscaping, and plants that attract birds all year long.
Lazuli bunting bird photo by Victoria Williams
From cardinals and chickadees to colorful lazuli buntings (like this breeding male shown above), birds are wonderful companions in the garden. Along with their melodic calls, birds are prolific insect eaters. Young songbirds especially enjoy spiders, caterpillars and other insects, which provide protein and calcium for their growing bodies.
Asters photo via Teresa O’Connor
It isn’t difficult to create natural habitats for birds, especially if you remember their need for protection, food and comfy places to mate.
In your garden, strive for a mix of trees, shrubs, ground covers, vines and native plants in diverse heights. Different bird species will nest at different heights. Also consider plants that provide seeds, fruits, nuts or nectars to attract the greatest number of birds. For instance, daisy-like flowers such as sunflowers, zinnias and asters (shown above) appeal to seed-eating birds including chickadees and finches.
Rose hips photo via Teresa O’Connor
All four seasons
Ideally, you want to provide food and shelter all four seasons. Although many birds migrate and stay only a short while, others live in your area all year round. To protect and feed wintering birds, consider planting conifers for shelter and food. Shrubs such as holly or roses also provide winter fruit. Rose hips, for instance, attract American robins, eastern bluebirds and sparrows, along with other critters. So leave some rose hips on your bush at the end of the season.
Don’t deadhead your sunflowers, asters and daisies when they stop blooming in fall. The dried seed heads attract birds including sparrows and cardinals.
Hummingbird photo via Victoria Williams
Hummingbirds are particularly attracted to red flowers, but they also like orange, purple and pink flowers. The bird’s long bills are built to probe into trumpet-shaped flowers, such as these Crocosmia "Lucifer" blossoms.
Other plants that attract these birds include petunia, hibiscus, coral bell, butterfly bush, foxglove and penstemon. We have a trumpet creeper vine in our garden that is a real magnet for hummingbirds. They love it!
Some plants that attract birds
Below are just some of the plants that bring birds to your garden. Deciduous trees, conifers and shrubs provide nesting spots and food. Perennials and annuals are especially attractive for seed-eaters, and attract insects for other birds.
- Mulberries: Summer fruit attracts robins, cardinals and other songbirds.
- Flowering Dogwood: Fall fruit feeds bluebirds, tanagers, grosbeaks and other birds.
- Crabapples: Fall/winter-remaining fruit brings finches, waxwings, cardinals and others to the garden.
- Eastern Red Cedar: Fall/winter-remaining fruit for waxwings and others.
- Spruces: Fall/winter-remaining fruit for crossbills and other seed eaters.
- Wild grape
- Virginia creeper
- Northern bayberry
- Red-osier dogwood
- Winterberry (holly)
Sunflower photo via Teresa O’Connor
Annuals and perennials
- Black-eyed Susan
After attracting all those birds to your garden, these resources will help you identify them:
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology
- Interactive Bird Song Poster by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources