Attract Birds Naturally – with Plants!

Birds are naturally drawn to flowers, grasses, vines, shrubs, and trees because they provide food, shelter, and nesting locations needed for survival. This article reveals which plants will attract wild birds, which species you’re likely to draw in, and why native plants are best. No bird feeder is needed!

Plants Are Essential to Birds’ Survival

Birds’ primary goals are to survive and reproduce (and provide hours of enjoyment and entertainment for us!).

Plants are crucial for their survival and reproduction efforts as they provide food, shelter, and ideal nesting locations.

Food: Plants provide natural food for wild birds including seeds, nectar, fruit, nuts, and insects.

Shelter: Plants provide shelter so they can hide from predators, be protected from the weather, and have a place to rest.

Nesting (Reproduction): Shrubs and trees offer dense foliage for birds to build their nests in and protect from elements including weather and predators.

Native Plants are Best

According to The Audubon Society, native plants occur naturally in the region in which they evolved.

Native plants occur naturally in the region in which they evolved

The Audubon Society

Why native plants are best for you and the birds:

  1. They’re easier to grow because they’ve adapted to the climate conditions.
  2. They’re preferred by birds and birds’ systems are well adapted to digesting and utilizing their nutrients.

Native Plants to Attract Birds

Flowers

Common NameScientific NameHow it Helps Birds
Aster, New EnglandAster novae-angliaeInsects
Aster, Sky BlueAster azureusInsects
Aster, SmoothAster laevisInsects
Bergamot (Bee balm)Monarda fistulosaNectar
Black Eyed Susan, WweetRudbeckia subtomentosaSeeds
Blazing star, denseLiatris spicataNectar, Seeds
Indigo, Blue FalseBaptisia australisNectar
Butterfly WeedAsclepias tuberosaNectar, Insects
ColumbineAquilegia spp.Nectar
Coneflower, pale purpleEchinacea pallidaInsects, Seeds, Nectar
Coneflower, purpleEchinacea purpureaInsects, Seeds
Coneflower, YellowRatibida pinnataInsects, Seeds
CupplantSilphium perfoliatumShelter, Water, Seeds, Insects, Nectar
Goldenrod, StiffSolidago rigidaSeeds, Nectar
Milkweed, CommonAsclepias syriacaInsects
Milkweed, Sullivant’sAsclepias sullivantiiInsects
Milkweed, RedAsclepias incarnataInsects
Penstemon, SmoothPenstemon digitalisNectar
Phlox, DownyPhlox pilosaNectar
White Doll’s Eyes (Baneberry, White)Actaea pachypodaBerries
Baneberry, RedActaea rubraBerries
Indigo, Yellow WildBaptisia tinctoriaSeeds, Insects, Nectar
Blue CohoshCaulophyllum thalictroidesBerries

Grasses

Common NameScientific NameHow it Helps Birds
IndiangrassSorghastrum nutansNest Material
Bluestem, BigAndropogon gerardiiNest Material, Shelter, blue
Bluestem, LittleSchizachyrium scopariumNest Material
Prairie DropseedSporobolus heterolepisSeeds, Nuts, Berries, Nest Material
Sideoats GramaBouteloua curtipendulaSeeds, Insects
Bur SedgeCarex grayiSeeds, Nest Material

Vines

Common NameScientific NameHow it Helps Birds
ClematisClematis spp.Shelter
Poison IvyRhus radicansBerries, Shelter
Trumpet Creeper (Trumpet Vine)Campsis radicansNectar
Virginia CreeperParthenocissus quinquefoliaBerries, Shelter, Fruit, Insects
Wild GrapeVitis spp.Fruit, Shelter

Shrubs

Common NameScientific NameHow it Helps Birds
Bayberry, NorthernMyrica pensylvanicaFruit, Berries, Shelter
BlackberryRubus fruticosusBerries
ChokeberryBerries
CotoneasterBerries
DogwoodCornus spp.Berries, Insects, Shelter
Dogwood, PagodaCornus alternifoliaBerries, Insects, Shelter
Dogwood, Red TwigCornus sericeaBerries, Shelter
ElderberrySambucus canadensisBerries
Firebush
Great Basin sagebrushArtemisia tridentataShelter, Insects
HackberryBerries
HazelnutCorylus spp.Nuts, Insects, Berries
Highbush BlueberryBerries
Highbush CranberryBerries
Holly, AmericanIlex opacaBerries, Shelter
MistletoeBerries
MulberryMorus sppBerries
Nannyberry, ArrowoodViburnumBerries, Shelter, Nest Location
PlumPrunus spp.Berries, Insects
Prickly pearOpuntia spp.Shelter
RaspberryBerries
Saw palmettoSerenoa repensShelter
ServiceberryAmelanchier spp.Shelter, Nest Location, Berries, Insects
ShadebushShelter, Nest Location
SnowberryShelter, Nest Location, Berries
Staghorn sumacRhus typhinaBerries
SumacRhus sppBerries, Insects, Shelter
ViburnumViburnum spp.Berries
Viburnum, BlackhawViburnum prunifoliumBerries
Winterberry (Holly)Ilex verticillataBerries, Shelter
Witch-HazelHamamelisNuts, Insects, Fruit
YewShelter
ButtonbushCephalanthus occidentalisNectar, Seeds

Trees (Deciduous)

Common NameScientific NameHow it Helps Birds
Beech, AmericanFagus grandifoliaNuts, Shelter
Ash, MountainSorbus americanaBerries, Insects
BasswoodTilia spp.Nuts, Berries, Insects, Shelter
BeechFagus spp.Berries, Insects, Nuts
BirchBetula sppShelter, Insects, Seeds
CedarCedrus spp.Seeds, Shelter, Nest Location
CherryPrunus sppFruit, Insects, Shelter
Crab AppleMalus spp.Shelter, Fruit
Dogwood, PacificCornus nuttalliiShelter
ElmUlmus spp.Berries, Nuts, Insects, Shelter
FirAbies sppShelter, Nest Location, Seeds
HawthornBerries
HickoryCarya sppInsects, Shelter, Nuts, Nest Location
HornbeamCarpinus spp.Nuts, Berries, Insects
Juniper, CalifoniraJuniperus californicaShelter, Fruit
LarchLarix spp.Insects, Seeds, Shelter
MapleAcer spp.Insects, Seeds
Oak, whiteQuercus baNuts, Insects, Cavity, Shelter
Pacific madroneArbutus menziesiiShelter, Fruit
SycamorePlatanus spp.Nuts, Shelter, Insects

Trees (Coniferous)

Common NameScientific NameHow it Helps birds
Cedar, Red (Eastern)Juniperus virginianaShelter, Nest Location
HemlockTsugaShelter, Seeds, Nest Location
JuniperJuniperus sppShelter, Seeds, Nest Location
PinePinus sppShelter, Nest Location, Insects, Seeds
SpruceAbies sppShelter, Nest Location, Seeds

More than 25 years ago, Tammy put her first bird feeder outside her kitchen window. Since then she learned how to attract wild birds to her backyard. Studying the meaning & symbolism of wild birds is also a passion of hers.