Plants That Attract Birds: Creating a Bird-Friendly Garden

Welcome to a beginner’s guide on plants that attract birds to your garden. If you love seeing birds fly around your yard, certain plants can help make that happen. This article will show you which ones work best.

We’ll cover the basics, from bushes with berries that birds love to eat to flowers that provide nectar for hummingbirds. Plant these in your garden, and you’ll have birds visiting quickly. It’s all about choosing the right plants to turn your garden into a bird-friendly spot.

Introduction to Bird-Friendly Plants

Plants That Attract Birds

Creating a bird-friendly habitat in your garden starts with choosing the right plants. By selecting species that offer a mix of food, shelter, and nesting opportunities, you encourage a diversity of birds to visit, so if you want a diverse species of birds to visit your yard, plant things that attract them in the early fall through the winter, too!

Native Plants that Attract Birds

Incorporating native plants into your gardening plans is the cornerstone of a bird-friendly environment. These plants have evolved alongside local wildlife and are well-suited to meet birds’ needs.

They often require less maintenance, as they’re adapted to the local climate and soil conditions. Another plus is that they’ll attract native insects. Check Audubon’s native plants database.

Plants as Food Sources

Birds need a reliable natural food source throughout the year—plant various native species like:  berry-producing shrubsflowering plants, and seed-bearing flowers to provide nutrition across different seasons. For instance, sunflowers and coneflowers are visually appealing, and their seeds are irresistible to many bird species.

American Goldfinch love sunflowers

Plants for Shelter and Nesting

A mix of trees, shrubs, and dense foliage creates a haven offering protection from predators and extreme weather. Evergreens can provide year-round cover, while deciduous trees can host nesting sites in the spring and summer.

Gardening Tips

When planning your garden:

  • Include a range of plants that flower and fruit at different times.
  • Consider the plant’s height and structure for varied shelter options.
  • Group similar plants together to create a more substantial habitat.
  • Add a water feature for birds! 

Remember, a bird-friendly garden benefits the birds and enriches your gardening experience by inviting wildlife spectacle into your backyard.

Best Trees for Birds

Selecting the suitable trees can transform your garden into a bustling hub for various bird species. Consider these trees for providing food, shelter, and nesting opportunities for your feathered visitors.

Oak: A Keystone Species

Oaks, or Quercus spp., support more wildlife species than any other native trees. They offer food in acorns and shelter for birds like woodpeckers and orioles. As a keystone species, the oak is crucial in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

Mulberries: A Cedar Waxwing Favorite

Birds like the cedar waxwing cherish mulberry trees. Learn how to attract cedar waxwings with our complete guide! These trees produce abundant berries that also attract thrushes. The fruiting period coincides with the spring and summer migration seasons, providing a vital food source for traveling birds.

Crabapple: Ornamental and Fruit-bearing

The Malus species, commonly known as crabapples, are striking trees that produce fruits irresistible to many birds. Small apples provide a winter food source, and their dense branches are excellent for nesting birds.

Serviceberry: Multiseason Appeal

Serviceberry trees are adorned with white blossoms in spring and yield nutritious serviceberries later in the season. These berries are a magnet for wildlife, and the dense foliage provides superb nesting sites.

Gray catbirds love the serviceberry trees! Plus, their autumn coloration adds aesthetic value to your garden. It’s a great small tree to round out your bird-friendly yard!

Evergreens: Year-Round Shelter

Spruces and other conifers provide shelter for birds throughout the year. Their dense needles are perfect for nesting and protection from the elements. They’re especially beneficial in winter, offering shelter and brush piles when other trees are bare.

Shrubs that Birds Love

Shrubs are vital to your garden ecosystem. They provide birds with essential food sources such as berries and safe nesting sites. They also offer necessary shelter from the elements and predators.

Dogwood: Dense Foliage

Dogwood shrubs, with their dense foliage, create perfect hideaways for birds. Woodpeckers and catbirds find these shrubs ideal for both food and shelter. Your Dogwood will often be aflutter with activity as these birds enjoy the protective cover.

Elderberry: Bountiful Berries

The Sambucus canadensis, commonly known as Elderberry, is a favorite among backyard birds due to its abundant berries. It’s a magnet for wildlife, drawing in various bird species keen on feasting on its nutritious offerings. Plant some elderberry and sumac to attract the American robin in the winter!

Viburnum: Versatile Attractors

Viburnum shrubs are versatile in attracting birds. Birds like woodpeckers and catbirds are drawn in by the clusters of berries and the robust branches, which are perfect for nesting.

Blueberry: Late Summer Fruit

Like Cedar waxwings, birds are attracted to Blueberry shrubs for their late-summer fruit bounty. As a bonus, you can enjoy the delicious berries, too, but be sure to plant enough to share!

American Holly: Evergreen Benefits

birdThe American Holly, with its small red berries, is an evergreen that benefits birds year-round. Its dense foliage provides excellent shelter, while the bright red berries offer long-lasting fruits and are a significant food source during the winter months when food is scarce.

Flowers and Herbaceous Plants Attract Seed-eating Birds

Flowers and Herbaceous Plants Attract Seed-eating Birds

Selecting flowers and herbaceous plants that provide seeds, nectar, bright colors, and habitat can turn your garden into a lively bird sanctuary.

Each plant attracts different birds, from sunflowers to Milkweed, by offering various resources such as insects for food and dense foliage for shelter.

Even if your yard doesn’t get full sun, you can plant some of these, like salvias, and watch them bloom.

Sunflowers: Seeds Galore

Plant sunflowers to provide a feast of seeds for birds like the American Goldfinch. Choose varieties like Helianthus annuus for their large seed heads that become the perfect dining spot. If you want to attract songbirds have a few sunflowers in your garden!

  • Preferred by: American Goldfinch
  • Features: Large heads, Edible seeds

Salvias: A Songbird Favorite

Salvias are rich in nectar, attracting finches and other songbirds during their flowering season. They have tubular flowers perfect for birds who can navigate deeper blooms.

Black-eyed Susans: Seeds

Offering both nectar and seeds, Black-eyed Susans are versatile plants that support a variety of birds. Their seed heads attract birds like finches long after the blooming season.

  • Provides: Nectar & Seeds
  • Birds Attracted: Finches

Zinnias: Insects, Seeds, and Nectar

Zinnias are an excellent choice for attracting songbirds to your yard. They are multi-purpose plants where birds can find insects, seeds, and nectar. They are lovely to butterflies, which in turn draw insectivorous birds.

  • Attracts: Butterflies & Insectivore birds
  • Resources: Insects, Seeds, Nectar

Coneflowers: Pollinator Hotspots

Purple coneflowers are loved by pollinators such as bees and butterflies. These eye-catching flowers offer seeds for birds and nectar for insects, creating a mini-ecosystem in your yard.

  • Attracts: Bees, Butterflies
  • Offers: Seeds for birds

Asters: Late-Season Blooms

Asters ensure that your garden remains a bird magnet even in late season, providing nectar and seeds. They’re a crucial habitat for caterpillars, another bird food source.

  • Season: Late bloomers
  • Benefits: Nectar, Seeds, Caterpillars

Milkweed: Butterfly Favorite

Host to Monarch butterfly caterpillars, Milkweed is essential for these butterflies’ lifecycle. Its flowers offer nectar, and the leaves are the food source for caterpillars.

  • Role: Monarch butterfly host
  • Provides: Nectar, Caterpillar food

10 Early Summer Bloomers

Early Summer Bloomers

Creating an attractive bird garden involves choosing plants that provide various resources throughout the year.

Early summer bloomers are particularly important as they offer nectar, seeds, or insects for birds either resident or passing through during migration. Below is a list of flowers that bloom in early summer and the types of birds they typically attract:

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)

  • Attracts: American Goldfinches, Chickadees, Cardinals, and a variety of sparrows. The seeds are a particular favorite.

Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.)

  • Attracts: Goldfinches, Blue Jays, Juncos, and hummingbirds. These birds are drawn to both the nectar and the seeds.

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta)

  • Attracts: Sparrows, Cardinals, Goldfinches, and Chickadees. The black-eyed Susan seeds are a good food source once the flowers have faded.

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)

  • Attracts: Hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Its tubular flowers are perfect for nectar-seeking birds.

Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea)

  • Attracts: Hummingbirds. The shape and color of the flowers are ideal for these tiny birds.

Lupines (Lupinus spp.)

  • Attracts: Hummingbirds and bees. The spiky flowers provide nectar for hummingbirds in particular.

Zinnias (Zinnia elegans)

  • Attracts: Hummingbirds, Tanagers, Finches, and butterflies. They offer nectar and attract insects for birds to feed on.

Salvias (Salvia spp.)

  • Attracts: Hummingbirds and butterflies. Salvias have tubular flowers that hummingbirds favor.

Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)

  • Attracts: Hummingbirds. The large, trumpet-shaped flowers are a magnet for nectar-seeking birds.

Columbine (Aquilegia spp.)

  • Attracts: Hummingbirds. Their unique flower shape is perfect for the long beaks of hummingbirds.

10 Partial Shade Plants That Attract Birds

Partial Shade Plants That Attract Birds

Several plants that attract birds can thrive in partial shade conditions, meaning they require some direct sunlight daily but are also tolerant of shade for a portion of the day. Here are some plants that can attract birds and do well in partial shade:

Columbine (Aquilegia spp.)

  • Columbine flowers attract Hummingbirds and other nectar feeders. They come in various bird-friendly colors and are particularly attractive to hummingbirds.

Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)

  • Attracts: Hummingbirds. The unique heart-shaped flowers of the bleeding heart are a favorite among hummingbirds.

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

  • Attracts: Hummingbirds. The tall spikes of tubular flowers are well-suited for hummingbirds in partially shaded gardens.

Coral Bells (Heuchera spp.)

  • Attracts: Hummingbirds and butterflies. Coral Bells have small bell-shaped flowers on tall stalks and come in various foliage colors.

Astilbe (Astilbe spp.)

  • Attracts: Butterflies and other insects, which in turn can attract insectivorous birds. Astilbe has feathery, plume-like flowers and thrives in moist, shady conditions.

Fuchsia (Fuchsia spp.)

  • Attracts: Hummingbirds. With their distinctive pendulous flowers, fuchsias are beautiful to hummingbirds and can do well in a partially shaded area.

Japanese Anemone (Anemone hupehensis)

  • Attracts: Butterflies and bees. Blooming in late summer to fall, they can provide nectar sources in a shaded garden.

Hellebore (Helleborus spp.)

  • Attracts: Early spring bees. Hellebores are one of the earliest bloomers and can attract pollinators in late winter to early spring.

Hydrangea (Hydrangea spp.)

  • Attracts: Bees and occasionally small birds. The large flower heads can also provide shelter for small birds.

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

  • Attracts: Bees and butterflies. These spring bloomers have tubular flowers that are beneficial for early-season nectar seekers.

Creating a Bird-Friendly Environment

If you want to attract a diversity of birds to your garden, you must provide abundant food, a reliable water supply, and safe areas for shelter and nesting.

Food Sources: Beyond Plants

Birds require a varied diet to remain healthy. While plants offer nectar and berries, supplementing with feeders can attract a wider variety of birds, including cardinals and other backyard species.

  • Nectar: Essential for attracting hummingbirds; consider a nectar feeder.
  • Berries: Shrubs and trees that bear berries will appeal to many bird species.
  • Insects: Gardens rich in insects will satisfy birds who favor a protein-rich diet.
  • Feeders: Place different types of feeders to provide seeds and suet.

Water Features: Essential for Life

Water is a magnet for birds. A consistent water source is a critical component in creating a bird-friendly habitat.

  • Birdbaths: Shallow and safe for birds to bathe and drink.
  • Water Gardens: Attract birds with moving water, which mimics natural streams.
  • Ponds: Larger water features can attract waterfowl like ducks.

Shelter and Nesting Sites: Safe Havens

Birds need shelter for protection against weather and predators.

  • Habitat: Preserve natural areas in your garden where birds can hide.
  • Nesting Boxes: Install to encourage birds to raise their young in your garden.
  • Dense Foliage: Plant thickets and climbing plants to provide natural cover.

Vines for Vertical Interest

Vines can transform your garden into a lively vertical habitat, attracting a diverse array of birds with their flowers and foliage. Tailoring your space with suitable vines encourages different bird species to visit for nectar or take refuge among the leaves.

Trumpet Honeysuckle: Hummingbird Magnet

Lonicera sempervirens, commonly known as Trumpet Honeysuckle, is a robust vine known for its trumpet-shaped flowers. These flowers are incredibly alluring to hummingbirds due to their vibrant red or orange blossoms rich in nectar. Planting this vine means you’ll likely see hummingbirds frequently in your garden during the blooming season.

Birds Attracted by Trumpet Honeysuckle



Virginia Creeper: Sheltering Foliage

Virginia Creeper, scientifically termed Parthenocissus quinquefolia, is not just a simple vine but a natural haven providing shelter and nesting spaces for an array of birds. Its dense foliage is a sanctuary for birds like catbirdsbrown thrashers, and even thrushes.

Benefits of Virginia Creeper

Provides shelter

Supports nesting birds

Attracts wildlife

When you incorporate Virginia Creeper into your garden, you’re offering a paradise for wildlife to thrive—a gesture that will be noticed by winged visitors and nature lovers alike.

Understanding Bird Behaviors

When you’re eager to welcome various birds to your garden, it’s crucial to understand their behaviors. Like all wildlife, birds have specific needs, seeking out habitats that provide shelterfood, and nesting sites.

Food Sources: Birds, including species such as cardinals and woodpeckers, are drawn to areas where food is abundant. For instance, sparrows and warblers might flock to seed-bearing plants, while chickadees prefer insects and suet. Incorporating a range of plants that produce seeds, berries, and nectar can cater to the diverse palates of your feathered visitors.

Bird TypePreferred Food
Cardinals Sunflower seeds
WoodpeckersSuet, nuts
WarblersInsects, berries
Grosbeaks & TanagersFruit, insects
Blue JayNuts, seeds, insects


Shelter and Safety: Dense foliage and thickets offer secure nesting spots and refuge from predators. A rose-breasted grosbeak or a northern cardinal might nest in a bush, while a brown thrasher may opt for ground cover.

Trees and shrubs of varying heights create a layered effect that many species find appealing, such as the red-eyed vireo or dark-eyed junco.

Water Source: A birdbath or a small pond can attract birds, providing them a place to drink and bathe. Bird baths are essential during migration periods when birds like juncos or tanagers are on the move.

Nesting: Offer diverse nesting materials like twigs, moss, or mud to accommodate different species. Also, the timing of when you provide these materials can be crucial for nesting birds.

By tailoring your garden to address these birds’ behaviors, you’ll gain a deeper understanding and attract a vibrant array of bird life.

Birds of Different Regions

In the Eastern United States, you’ll find a rich tapestry of wildlife that flocks around native plants. These plants offer beauty to your garden and vital habitat and food sources for various bird species.

Gardening for Birds:

Creating a bird-friendly environment starts with selecting plants native to your region. For instance, the Carolina Chickadee and Red-eyed Vireo prefer dense foliage.

Planting indigenous shrubs and trees like Dogwoods or Serviceberries can provide these birds with nesting spots and a steady diet of berries and insects.

Feathered Visitors:

You may notice the vibrant American Goldfinch enjoying seeds from Coneflowers or Sunflowers in your garden. Similarly, with its brilliant red feathers, the Northern Cardinal is a sight to behold as it frequents seed feeders or berry-producing shrubs.

Bird-Friendly Plant Suggestions:

  • Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.)
  • Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)
  • Dogwoods (Cornus spp.)
  • Serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.)

Seasonal Arrivals:

When the weather cools, you’ll see the Dark-eyed Junco and the striking Rose-breasted Grosbeak stopping in gardens rich in food sources like native grass seeds and fruits. Meanwhile, during the warm months, Mockingbirds may visit your bird feeders or the trees you’ve planted with their mimicry calls and various Nuthatches.

Water Features for Ducks:

If you have the space, adding a pond can attract various species of ducks, providing them with habitat and much-needed resources.

Each addition to your garden can support local bird populations. Your choice of plants can turn your backyard into a sanctuary for wildlife.

Supporting Wildlife Beyond Birds

Creating a garden with a haven for various wildlife is rewarding. By planting native plants, you support local bird populations and a more comprehensive range of beneficial creatures. These plants often require less maintenance and are more resilient to local pests and climate.

Insects and Pollinators

Many insects (and birds), such as bees, moths, and butterflies, play a crucial role in pollination. To attract these pollinators, include plants that provide abundant nectar. For example:

  • Bees: Lavender, sage, and borage
  • Butterflies: Milkweed, asters, and buddleia

Caterpillars are another critical group of insects. Some plants serve as vital food sources for their larvae, aiding in developing the next generation of butterflies.

Food and Habitat

Consider a mix of flowering native plants, shrubs, and trees to create a diverse food web and suitable habitats. Here’s a quick list of plant suggestions:

  • Shrubs: Berry-producing shrubs like Elderberry and serviceberry
  • Trees: Oak and willow for caterpillars; fruit trees for nectar and fruit

Importance of Native Plants

Native plants are particularly beneficial for birds as they have co-evolved with the local wildlife. They often provide indigenous creatures with the most suitable nectar, leaves, seeds, and other food sources.

In your garden, strive to foster an environment that supports a rich tapestry of life. Diversity includes insects like bees, butterflies, and caterpillars—all of which contribute to a thriving ecosystem beyond birds.