Best Trees and Shrubs for the Bird Garden?

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Hi, birdsters!

I have been following the Bird Watching threads and getting excited about adding more 'bird friendly' trees and shrubs to my natural garden style back yard--

So far we have a nice dogwood (in the photo) and some ash, a few evergreens and crabapples and we would like to add more. It seems like the birds swoop in and eat up everything so fast, it's hard to keep berries around through the seasons....

I googled and found this list of Trees and Shrubs for the northeast region that I thought was pretty precise and was wondering if anyone had comments or other recommendations--

General Plant Guide to Attracting Birds in the Northeast from "The Helpful Gardener" website:

Purple finches
Cotoneaster, Ornamental grasses

Cedar Waxwing
Cotoneaster, Pyracantha, Mountain Ash, Junipers

Flowering Dogwood, Crabapples, healthy and unhealthy lawns

Eastern Phoebe
Serviceberry, Sumacs

Downy Woodpecker
Serviceberry, Dogwood, Mountain Ash, Virginia Creeper

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Trumpet vine, Weigela, Columbine, Bee Balm, Quince, most flowering plants producing red or orange flowers

Indigo Bunting
Unruly lawns, Dandelions, Goldenrod, Thistle

Pine, Spruce and Fir trees

Winterberry, Serviceberry, Viburnums, Bayberry, Junipers

Pileated Woodpecker
Serviceberry, Elderberry

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Cherry, Dogwood, Virginia creeper, Elderberry, Mulberry

Ornamental grasses, Roses, Junipers

Scarlet Tanager
Pines, Serviceberry, Elderberry, Maples, Elms, Oaks

Grasses, Conifers, Cosmos, Zinnia

Red-winged Blackbird
Marsh grasses, open pastureland

Gold Finch
Thistles, Grasses, Echinacea, Rudbeckia

Northern Flicker
Elderberry, Blueberry, Dogwoods

Oaks, Grasses, poorly maintained lawns

Baltimore oriole
Quince, Serviceberry, Maples, Elms, Oaks

Winterberry, Roses, Dogwood, Junipers

Bayberry, Serviceberry, Elderberry, Sumac, Dogwood

Oaks, Serviceberry, Elderberry, Bayberry

Dogwood, Virginia creeper, Holly, Juniper, Sumac, Serviceberry


Thumbnail by tabasco
Kingsport, TN(Zone 6b)

ooooooo, one of m favorite subjects! When I first got into gardening it was to plant stuff with berries for wild life. (now my gardening life has been taken over by daylilies but that's another story). I have lots of photos of my berries in full berrydom that I would be happy to share.

Here is a photo of one of my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE berry shrubs for birds. This is a deciduous holly called a winterberry. You need to plant one male for every 10 females within a 20 ft. radius. I have one male tucked away and three berrying females in my front yard. Here is a mockingbird guarding "his" tree lol. The berries start to ripen in the fall and provide food all winter.

This message was edited Jan 7, 2007 8:56 AM

Thumbnail by lilyfantn
Kingsport, TN(Zone 6b)

Here it is before it loses it's leaves.

Thumbnail by lilyfantn
Kingsport, TN(Zone 6b)

Vibunums are great too. Here is a big beautiful double file viburnum. It is about 10 feet tall and gets its berries in the spring.

Thumbnail by lilyfantn
Kingsport, TN(Zone 6b)

When the double file viburnum is in flower it looks like a gigantic hydrangea. Here is a close up of the berry cluster.

Thumbnail by lilyfantn
Kingsport, TN(Zone 6b)

This is a very popular with the birds viburnam - cranberry viburnum (notice that I am too lazy to look up the scientific names lol) It also berries in the spring and gets about 6 feet tall.

Thumbnail by lilyfantn
Kingsport, TN(Zone 6b)

Here is a beautyberry bush. The color on these is unbelieveable. I call it, Barbie doll accessory purple. These berry in the fall.

Thumbnail by lilyfantn
Kingsport, TN(Zone 6b)

Here is another look at more of this shrub. This particular one gets 4 feet tall but I have seen other kinds with bigger berries that get 10 feet tall. I have one of those in the front ard but it hasn't berried yet.

Thumbnail by lilyfantn
Kingsport, TN(Zone 6b)

I have a Washington Hawthorn planted in the front yard that is also quite popular. Another fall berrying plant that offers food all winter. If you look closely you will see that its branches are covered with very long thorns.

Thumbnail by lilyfantn
Kingsport, TN(Zone 6b)

Here is the berry of the native spicebush. It berries in the spring and the birds like the berries but I really plated it to attract the spicebush butterfly.

Thumbnail by lilyfantn
Kingsport, TN(Zone 6b)

Here is the huge umbel of fruit from the elderberries I planted. Boy, is this fruit popular! When it is flowering it has the most heavenly strong scent.

Kingsport, TN(Zone 6b)

Oops, clicked on the wrong button. Here is the elderberry fruit.

Thumbnail by lilyfantn
Kingsport, TN(Zone 6b)

I also have some current bushes. Here is the red one.

Thumbnail by lilyfantn
Kingsport, TN(Zone 6b)

Here is the black one.

Thumbnail by lilyfantn
Kingsport, TN(Zone 6b)

Here is an interesting novelty item I planted that I may be sorry I did lol - a varigated pokeweed.

Thumbnail by lilyfantn
Kingsport, TN(Zone 6b)

I have a number of other things planted that haven't gotten berries yet. Its not uncommon for a plant to take 5+ years to become mature and happy enough to get fruit. I have a contorted mulberry tree, a bird cherry, a number of native viburnums (birds tend to prefer native varieties when it comes to food and not the fancy hybrids) . Speaking of natie iburnums, I have an arrowood vib. planted - this is called that because the indians used to make their arrows from this plant. And I have a tall yaupon holly. And I almost forgot - I have a bayberry shrub. These are supposed to need a male and a female. I got two and one died but the other one still gets berries. Go figure!

Kingsport, TN(Zone 6b)

Oh I almost forgot! I have two chokecherry bushes too. I read that these are a llost choice for birds but they sure seem to like tham at my house.

Thumbnail by lilyfantn
Kingsport, TN(Zone 6b)

I also have a nice big seviceberry bush with some miniature blueberry bushes planted around it. I'll have to see if I can find any pics of that.

Ridgefield, WA

BRILLIANT! Keep the photographs coming! I'm taking notes. :)

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

lilyfantn--gosh! I go away for a bit and come back to see all these beautiful pics! Your berries look delicious--no wonder the birds love your place!

I would love to plant some currants and the elderberry bush. I want the spicebush too for the swallowtail butterflies, of course. I am going to have to make some space for some of these--I have a lot of shade from the ash trees and some may have to come down because of the 'ash borer' invasion...

I am taking notes, too!

Kingsport, TN(Zone 6b)

I love ashes! I have a mountain ash but it is growing into the house and needs to be taken down. It doesn't seem to berry any more either. When it was in its prime we would gets flocks of cedar waxwings visit. They don't do very well here in zone 6/7. I think they like it where its colder. Here is a waxwing from an arboreatum I vvisited last year.

Thumbnail by lilyfantn
Ridgefield, WA

- A nice article that mentions some of the same plant material that's being discussed here. My apologies if the article's already been posted - i'm a little behind in reading the threads.

Kingsport, TN(Zone 6b)

Hey thanks esterella! What a great article. I have marked it and put it in my favorites folder.

You can't be too far behind because we are only 3 days old here lol! This is the first thread we've had on plantings so far I think.

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

Hi guys! What a great thread! I have some photinia that I'm looking to replace, WAAY too overused in the Southwest, now I have inspiration! What a great variety of fruit-bearing plants you have Lilyfan, you're such a good bird mama :) I've always loved currants too...
I've found that our grapevines attract plenty of fruit loving birds too, so much that I've only been able to sample a little myself! So much for wine-making... :)

Dacula, GA(Zone 7b)

I love this thread. I hope to remove some brambles that the birds do feed on, but they are so overgrown and "dangerous" now. I think that viburnum and winterberry and maybe some currants will go nicely in their place. Wonderful pics. Thanks so much.

Yonkers, NY(Zone 5b)

I have a chokeberry tree. So far the only bird I have seen eating it on occasion is the mockingbird.
I spotted a grackle eating my blueberries.

My biggest succes as far as "Planting for the Birds" has always been the sunflowers.
The finches, chickadees & woodpeckers always come for the seeds... if the squirrels don't get to them first. LOL!


Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

estreya-- thanks for posting the link to the New york Times article (I feel lucky to catch it still up on the website--I think they are only posted for 7 days.) That could be me writing it! I have become completely infatuated with watching the birds darting around our thickets and old wormy trees out my kitchen window!

And that article reminded me that the birds like the Poison Ivy. We have so much of it growing up our trees in the woods and it often passes through my head that it's a weed and I should have it removed, but if it's not bothering anyone and the birds like it, I should just leave it. Likewise my old woodpile. Ah, let's see--what else can I stop feeling guilty about?! LOL

lilyfantan--I planted one of those American Beautyberries last summer--I first saw it at the Franklin Conservatory garden in Columbus---the purple berries were gorgeous and caught my eye. I used them for my Thanksgiving table arrangement then set out the branches for the birds afterwards. Worked well for everyone!

A variety of American beautyberries from Big Dipper Farm:

I don't know why, but I haven't seen Cedar Waxwings on our ashes. I have heard they are in the parkland, but they don't come to our yard. I wonder why?...

My planting list for spring is getting longer! Thanks everyone!

Ridgefield, WA

My planting list has been revised based on this post also. Among other things, it now includes a white dogwood, which i can only hope will look as gorgeous in my landscape as it does in yours, tabasco! I noticed a lot of bird activity around the dogwoods i planted last season (a sort of pinkish color), but i THINK it's been mostly robin red breasts at this point. I'll have to play closer attention come Spring.

Lilyfantn, your berry bushes are magnificent. Silly question: How does one tell the difference between a male and female winterberry? And also, how tall does the winterberry get?

I'm asking about the height because i'm trying to determine which berry bushes i can place near the woods (doesn't matter how tall they get), and which are ideally suited for the beds that "wrap" around the house (better if they're mounding a smallish). The double file viburnum, for example, would probably look great mixed in along a tree line or one of the distant field beds given how tall it gets.

I know these are silly questions, but i seem to be particularly challenged when it comes to placement issues.

Whidbey Island, WA(Zone 7a)

Fabulous info here - thank you all!!!! I have a long, long hedge of photinia which I despise, but can't afford to replace it right now . . . plus my neighbor would be very unhappy as she loves it . . . but like Estreya, I am taking notes!!!!

Braselton, GA(Zone 8a)

GREAT thread !!

I have a yard full of cedar [juniper] trees. The birds love the berries and the trees provide cover in Summer and warmth in the Winter.

Kingsport, TN(Zone 6b)

Hi estrella - I think the only way you can tell the difference visually between male and female winterberries is to look at them during the season that the females have berries. I think all garden centers that sell them though have them named by variety and will label whih are males and which are females. There are a lot of varieties but they tend to berry during two different times. You just need to make sure you get the right male for the early girls and the right male for the late girls. At one time I had a chart of which males went with which females but since I lost my hard drive last year I don't have it any more. But any garden center which sells them should have them grouped correspondingly. The ones I have are only about 4 feet tall. There may be others that are taller. By the way, your questions aren't silly at all!

A tree line sounds like a great idea. I have my viburnums planted along the back of the property along with forsythia and the elderberries. I'm thinking of adding a lower growing row in front of these. (lets get rid of as much lawn as possible lol).

North Little Rock, AR(Zone 7b)

Thanks for all of the info. In my yard, the two bird favorites are Red Mulberry and Sweet Gum. When we moved here, I did not notice the Mulberry which was small and close to the creek. Boy, as it grew, everyone noticed it...or should I say every bird. LOL I hated the Gum...gum balls...ouch! Then I saw all the different kinds of birds that love to visit in spring and fall. Now, I adore the Gum tree, and just rake gum balls, a lot. ;o)

Ridgefield, WA

Lilyfantn, thanks you again for the information! There's a great nursery a short drive North that would likely have things organized and labeled as you describe. I'll take a ride up there in the next few weeks.

PS: I'm sorry to hear about your hard drive. I hope you didn't loose too much precious data - at times, it seems a cross section of our whole lives is housed in that metal box of soldered bits.

Ferndale, AR(Zone 7b)

Kim, I don't have to worry with the gumballs since they are a distance from the house, but Sweetgums are one of my favorites out here. They are one of the prettiest trees we see in the fall! There are several around our pond and are gorgeous reflected in the water.

lily, thanks for sharing the info on winterberries. Makes it much easier to sort through all the info available out there.

tobasco, we have several native beautyberries and I agree they are beautiful. Wish we had more.

estreya, I like your plan. The darned deer keep eating back my viburnams planted in front of a wooded area! I have two snowballs - or HAD two. Think one is a goner. The other does produce blooms, but the deer won't allow it to get more than about 3' tall. Ugh!

Marlton, NJ

As much as I love deers I'm so glad I don't have them after hearing all the sad losses from them.

Ferndale, AR(Zone 7b)

They can do a lot of damage in a very short time. Had seven 50' rows of purple hull peas and didn't harvest a single serving of peas due to those boogers. My hostas have to be behind a gated courtyard or next to the dog yard because they are "deer candy"!

Whidbey Island, WA(Zone 7a)

I run around at night (so no one can see me) spraying this awful stuff that does seem to keep the deer away - it's non-toxic and harmless to the environment. But it absolutely stinks - not for any length of time, but I try to avoid windy conditions!!! One of the reasons I wanted to live in a rural setting was to enjoy the wildlife so I do my darndest to not get upset with the deer or the rabbits if I do indeed forget to spray and they come to dinner. I will politely ask them to leave the premises if I happen to come upon them during the day. They generally oblige - once I'm within ten feet or so!!!

Gainesville, FL(Zone 9a)

you have no idea what I would give for a plate of fresh purple hull peas. Glad to know they are alive and well other places.

Ferndale, AR(Zone 7b)

if inteterested, the pea saga........


Whidbey Island, WA(Zone 7a)

LOL - thanks so much for the story, Debra . . . made me smile big time!!!

We have an Alpaca farm a few miles away - wonder if deer that that poop, too? LOL You've made my day!


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