For the Birds: 7 Plant Types for Year-Round Habitat

To attract and nurture numerous birds from many species, a yard
should furnish many food sources that stretch yields over the whole
year. To provide all this, a landscape needs plants from each of
seven overlapping categories. The fall is a good time to establish
some of these plants (although any time will do!), as most nursery’s
have big sales at this time of year.

Seven types of plants for supporting the birds:

Evergreens: Evergreen trees and shrubs with needles (pine, fir,
cedar, spruce, yew, hemlock, juniper, and others), and to a lesser
extent, broadleaf evergreens (holly, arbutus, large bamboo,
eucalyptus, bayberry) offer winter shelter, summer nesting sites,
and escape cover. Some of these provide buds, seeds, and sap for food.

Grasses and forbs: Tall grasses, annual and perennial flowers,
and herbs provide cover for birds that feed or nest on the ground.
Many offer seeds and nectar or are hosts for insects.

Nectar-producing plants: Nectar-producing plants with red tubular flowers (such as trumpet vine, columbine) are irresistible to hummingbirds. Larger nectar-producers (including sugar and big-leaf maple, honeysuckle, banksias, black locust) are used by orioles and other small birds to supplement their diet.

Summer-fruiting plants: Plants that produce fruis or berries from May through August are the mainstays of many bird-attracting gardens. Varieties include blackberry, blueberry, cherry, chokecherry, honeysuckle, raspberry, serviceberry, mulberry, elderberry, and wild plum, but there are dozens more.

Fall-fruiting plants: Migratory birds must build up fat reserves for their long voyage southward, and nonmigratory varieties need plenty of food to survive winter freezes. Fall-fruiting plants are essential for this; they include dogwood, mountain ash, snowberry, sea buckthorn, buffaloberry, and cotoneaster.

Winter-fruiting plants: Especially valuable are plans whose fruits cling to the branches into winter. Some of these fruits need repeated freezing and thawing to be palatable. Winter fruits include black chokecherry, snowberry, sumac, highbush cranberry, many varieties of crabapple, barberry, hawthorn, strawberry tree, bittersweet, eastern and European wahoo, hardy kiwi, medlar, Virginia creeper, and chinaberry.

Nut and acorn plants: These include oaks, hickories, butternuts, walnuts, buckeyes, chestnuts, pinon and stone pine, and hazels. These trees provide good nesting habitat.

Adapted from Gaia's Garden, A guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, by Toby Hemenway. Copyright 2001 by Toby Hemenway. Reprinted by permission of Chelsea Green Publishing Company.
Adapted from Gaia's Garden, A guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, by Toby Hemenway (Chelsea Green, 2001).


Arlette S.
Arlette S10 years ago

Happy to live in a place with a lot of birds and butterflies, as well as many other kinds of animals. I will do my very best to keep this place like it is !

Peter McLaren- Kennedy

Best thing you can do both for your environment and to attract birds, something that the South African government have enshrined in law is plant local - they have banned imported species. Way to go!!

Holly Troubetzkoy
Holly Troubetzkoy10 years ago

Am moving from a home with a garden which provides all of these thigs. Good to have the list to remind me what I need to have in the future. Holly T

Bobbie Hitson
Bobbie Hitson10 years ago

Thanks for the info. It was very informative. Especially the winter-fruiting plant one!!

Tiger Rose
Tiger Rose10 years ago

I already have trumpet vines, honeysuckle, chokecherries, too many mulberry trees to count, plus a whole lot more. Noticed you totally ignored bushes which some birds depend on, like my Rose O' Sharons, Butterfly bushes (for hummingbirds), & Sunflower & other seed producing plants.
Nice start, but a real incomplete list.

Linda J.
linda j10 years ago

Loved the info! Thanks.

LarS S.
Larry S10 years ago

Thanks for the info! Always welcome.

Deborah Mccormick
Deborah Mccormick10 years ago

Great ideas!

Sandi Rhiannon C.
Rhiannon Myst10 years ago

Thanks for the helpful info

Christine Eret
Past Member 10 years ago

Thank you; that was very imformative.