Shrubs, trees and vines that attract birds

Birds just like other animals require food, water and shelter. In addition to providing huge amounts of food to insects that birds eat, many trees and shrubs service the birds' needs more directly by providing berries and seeds to eat; cover to protect them from predators and bad weather; and a suitable site to raise their young. Even dead trees, which are called snags, have an important ecological role by supporting an array of birds and mammals. Most people bring birds into their garden using bird food. In addition to bird feeders, you can also provide bird houses, winter roost boxes, bird baths and dirt baths. You should definitely try to plant some dogwood because they attract so many birds. See annuals and perennials for seed-producing plants. When you see the sign, you can single-click to get a bird list for that plant. Also, read about trees that support insects, because many birds rely on insect protein to raise their young. Bird food is somewhat expensive to buy, but trees provide it for free. The simplest and most effective way to provide for birds is to plant a tree.

  Cedar waxwings  
  Cedar waxwings are not usually permanent visitors to a garden. They fly in to take advantage of trees that are in fruit. They will be gone as soon as all the berries are eaten. In this instance, they were eating late season red berries from Highbush Cranberry.  


Name Notes
Alnus sp (Alder) native Provides seeds for birds.
Amelanchier sp. (Serviceberries) Serviceberries are very popular with birds and the berries will not last that long. Birds attracted include bluebirds, catbirds, grosbeaks, jays, mockingbirds robins, thrushes, woodpeckers, towhees orioles, tanagers and waxwings.
Amelanchier alnifolia native Prefers moist soils, but tolerates dry soils as well.
Amelanchier arborea native In Ontario, this may be sold as A. canadensis. This plant is tolerant of sand and partial shade. The species grows to 6 m in height but you can buy "Regent" which is a compact form that is only 6 feet high.
Amelanchier laevis native Tolerates a wide range of conditions. This is one of the larger serviceberries.

Aronia melanocarpa native

Aronia arbutifolia native

Both species of Aronia occur in a wide range of soils and tolerate some shade.
Cornus sp. (Dogwood) native Dogwoods attract more than 90 species of bird. There are several different species with different cultivation requirements. Some are full-sized trees while others are shrubs suited for smaller spaces. Choose the one appropriate for your garden conditions.
Cornus canadensis (Bunchberry) native A native groundcover. Requires moist soil otherwise it is not fussy.
Cornus amomum (Silky dogwood) native For moist soils.
Cornus racemosa (Gray dogwood) native Can tolerate drier and shadier conditions than other dogwoods. One of the most popular shrubs for birds.
Cornus stolonifera (Red Osier dogwood) native Prefers moist conditions but can also be found in dry soils.
Cornus alternifolia (Pagoda dogwood)native Tolerates shade better than other dogwoods, but requires moist soil.
Cornus florida (Flowering dogwood) native Prefers sandy soil and tolerates shade
Cornus rugosa (Round-leaved dogwood) native Tolerates drier soils than most dogwoods.
Cornus sericea/stolonifera native Very popular with birds. Will grow well in moist or garden soils and will tolerate dry soils.
Crataegus sp. (Hawthorns) native These plants are difficult to identify at the species level. They produce flowers in spring and berries during the summer. They are also thorny which provides protection for nesting birds. Do not plant with Cedar. Wide range of soils but need full sun.
Gaylussacia baccata (Black huckleberry) native Good for sandy soil and tolerates shade
Ilex sp. (Hollies) native These plants provide an early source of berries. One male plant is needed for every three female plants. Bluebirds, robins, waxwings, catbirds and mockingbirds are attracted to this plant.
Lindera benzoin (Spicebush) native Prefers moist soil, but will thrive in the shade. You need male and female plants to get fruit.
Malus sp. (Crab apple) native Prefers moist, well-drained soils in full sun.
Morus sp. (Mulberry) native Tolerates some shade. They attract over sixty species of bird. Morus rubra is native.
Myrica pensylvanica (Northern Bayberry)native Tolerant of poor conditions. Produces overwintering berries. You need a male and female to produce berries.
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper) native

Virginia Creeper is a vine that grows quite well in the shade and provides fruit for birds. It is also a host plant for several species of sphinx moths. Do not plant Boston Ivy which is a member of the same genus.

Pinus strobus native Evergreen shrubs and trees always provide good cover for birds. This tree is also a good food source. It does well on sandy soils and grows to 100 feet.
Prunus virginiana (Common chokecherry)native Tolerates some shade. They attract many species of birds when they fruit during the summer.
Quercus sp. (Oaks)native Oaks attracts both a large number of birds and insects. These trees probably support more species than any others in the Nearctic and palearctic regions.
Rhus (Sumac) native Sumacs attract more than 90 species of birds. They are especially useful as a winter source of food. However, I would only plant them on very large properties and they need some space. They are typical succession plants and will spread quickly using suckers. Ultimately, they can get replaced by trees.
Ribes sp. (Gooseberries and currents) native Avoid planting these shrubs near White Pine as they are a vector of a disease that can badly damage these great trees.
Rosa sp. (Rose) native These plants are good for growing thickets. They provide dense and protective cover for nesting. In winter when other food sources run out, birds start to consume the rose hips. Cardinals and robins, amongst others, favour these plants for nesting. Only some species are native.
Rubus sp. native The berries produced by this plant genus are highly rated by birds. Over 100 different bird species eat the berries. These plants are good for thickets and naturalised areas. They are not suited to more ornamental or small gardens. Several species are native.
Sambucus canadensis (American elderberry) native Produces more berries when two different varieties are planted close together. It tolerates light shade and does well in well-drained and moist soil. Perhaps 100 different bird species feed off this plant.
Symphoricarpos sp. (Coralberry or Snowberry)native It tolerates a wide range of conditions.
Toxicodendron radicans (Poison Ivy) native This plant is not recommended for planting in an urban garden because of the nasty reaction that can occur when it comes into contact with human skin. However, if you have a large patch of land you may want to leave this plant alone because it has great wildlife value. The drupes are popular with birds.
Vaccinium (Blueberry) native Prefers acidic well-drained soil.
Viburnum sp. Viburnums are certainly popular with birds. There are many species to choose from and there is no need to plant European species. Some cultivated varieties will not fruit.
Viburnum acerifolium (Maple leaf Viburnum)native If you have dry shade, then this is the only viburnum worth trying. It is smaller and flowers less than other viburnums.
Viburnum dentatum (Southern arrowwood) native Can tolerate drier conditions better than most other viburnums and produces nice fruit.
Viburnum edule (Squashberry)native Not suited for Southern Ontario or the USA

Viburnum lentago (Nannyberry)native

Prefers moist and part-shade, but tolerates a wide range of conditions. Can grow into a small tree.
Viburnum nudum (Smooth Witherod)native Plant in groups for better fruit production. Prefers moist soil but tolerates some dryness. The berries can look stunning.
Viburnum rafinesquianum (Arrowwood) native Similar to Viburnum dentatum but it has a more northerly range.
Viburnum recognitum (Northern arrowwood)native Prefers moist soil.
Viburnum trilobum (Highbush Cranberry) native Red fruited Viburnum.
Vitis sp. (Grape) native These plants are understorey vines that can smother shrubs and small trees, so they need to be sited carefully. However, they do support a large range of birds by providing shelter and food.
  Robin and grapes  
  Grapes help birds to fatten up well into November.  



Trees, shrubs and vines for attracting birds by Richard Degraaf and Gretchin Witman.

Dirr's hardy trees and shrubs by Michael Dirr

Gardening with trees and shrubs in Ontario, Quebec and the northeastern U.S. by Trevor Cole

Native plants of the northeast by Donald Leopold