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15 Colorful Trees & Shrubs to Attract Stunning Birds To Your Backyard

An American robin sitting on a nest with two baby robins in a crabapple tree.
Enjoy the many pleasures of inviting birds into your backyard with the right trees, shrubs and bushes.

Do you enjoy watching birds from the window, peering out several times a day to see what is going on in the outside world? If you would like to increase the activity and flight time in your backyard know that there are several easy ways to attract more birds as you “birdscape” your garden.

Among these simple ways to attract birds are providing a clean source of water and handing out nutritious food, which is an absolute given.

Birds are also searching for safe shelter. This can be in the form of a man-made birdhouse or a bunch of wind-protected shrubs.

As you rewild your garden, birds will also appreciate the rough areas around the edges, or rather, spots of nature that are left to themselves.

Spaces, where weeds have gone to seed, are of particular interest to birds, as is the dry canopy of a mature tree. It doesn’t take long to notice just how much they love to perch on branches. The question is, are you providing enough of them?

Let’s take a look at how to attract birds by planting the trees, shrubs, and bushes they love best, not only as a source of food but with safe places to nest and reproduce too.

Planting native shrubs and trees to attract birds

To find out what trees and shrubs are native to your area, with a strong emphasis on being native, head to your local tree nursery and start asking questions. They would be happy to tell you, then sell you, exactly what plants you need.

If you would like to do a little preliminary research on your own check with your local agriculture extension office, or try Audubon’s database of native plants first.

Of course, keep reading below for some ideas that may be new to you – and food for the birds.

1. Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)

Red chokeberry bush covered in berries on a sunny day.
The red chokeberry has lovely foliage in the fall, making it a beautiful addition to your garden all year.

To attract more meadowlarks and cedar waxwings to your garden, try planting a chokeberry tree or two. As a drought-tolerant shrub, reaching 6-10′ tall, it makes for a great edging plant.

While the fruits may be puckery, as their name suggests, birds will continue to eat them throughout the winter months while other food sources may be scarce.

2. Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)

A man's hand holds up a branch on a black chokeberry tree. The tree is covered in bunches of dark, purple berries. There is a brown fence in the background.
If you’re looking to attract a more colorful crew, plant a black chokeberry.

If your wish is to lure a different kind of bird, it takes a different kind of berry; or chokeberry. Not many birds are interested in eating such an astringent berry, but it has been noted that jays, mockingbirds and cardinals will all be interested in the berries.

With a large yard, it certainly deserves a space. Chokeberries can be used for erosion control and windbreaks. They’re also tolerant to wet soils and can make a wonderful addition to your forest garden.

3. Serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.)

A serviceberry shrub in full bloom in the spring.
The serviceberry has lovely blooms in early spring.

Multi-stemmed shrubs or small bushes are what serviceberries turn into once mature – it all depends on how you prune them. Not only do they have ornamental characteristics (white flowers in spring, followed by colorful foliage in fall), the fruits are a delicious summer treat for the birds.

An immature American robin grips the branch of a serviceberry shrub.
This young robin is enjoying the summer fruits of the serviceberry.

The berry-like fruits ripen in June and tend to attract orioles, thrushes, woodpeckers and waxwings. However, the serviceberry fruit is edible for humans too, so don’t forget to share!

4. Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

A male cardinal sits in a snow dappled winterberry, the background is blurred.
If you want a picturesque Christmas card outside your window, be sure to plant a winterberry.

A deciduous holly with vibrant red berries that looks great in the winter landscape, and attracts birds? Sounds too good to be true, and possibly too beautiful to eat. So, if you’re tempted to eat this one in any way, don’t.

Winterberries are perfect for certain birds (robins, bluebirds and waxwings), yet poisonous to humans. Keep that in mind when deciding to plant them in the landscape.

5. Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)

A black-throated blue warbler grasps an elderberry in its beak as it perches on a bunch of elderberries.
The birds won’t be the only ones to benefit from having elderberries in your yard.

You already know the benefits of harvesting and eating elderberries.

If you’ve been around long enough, you may have even tried to propagate elderberries from cuttings too.

Elderberries make a wonderful addition to any garden space, as they grow wild with minimal effort. Even the elder flowers attract insects which, in turn, lures the birds closer. They will come back to eat the berries later in summer as well.

The branching structure and shrubby nature of the elderberry also makes for a suitable nesting space.

A large elder bush is covered in bunches of dark, purple elderberries.

Follow this link to see what birds an elderberry bush can attract.

6. Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)

Staghorn sumac is another bush that is edible by both birds and humans. The bright red cones make wonderful jelly and wine.

If you’re seeking to provide shelter to birds, staghorn sumac may be a good bet, as it attracts more than a hundred different kinds of birds.

A black-capped chickadee sits atop a spike of staghorn sumac.
“What do you mean I have to share?”

As with all plants in this list, please do some additional research to be sure that plants are native to your area before purchasing and planting.

7. Dogwood (Cornus sp.)

A dogwood tree with a birdhouse in it.
Growing trees gives birds places to nest as well, especially when you put a birdhouse in the tree.

No list of edible trees would be complete without Cornelian cherry, otherwise known as dogwood.

The oblong fruits which ripen in July are incredibly tasty, fresh from the tree, boiled down into a jam or syrup. And yet, birds have a fond appreciation for them too! Make sure to plant enough for everyone.

Dogwoods have some of the loveliest blooms.

Growing and Using Cornelian Cherry @ Practical Self Reliance

8. Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)

A cedar waxwing perches on a cluster of hawthorn berries.
This Cedar Waxwing is certainly enjoying the hawthorn berries.

Another favorite plant of mine (I have dozens of them), is hawthorn trees and their berries. Again, the birds will also enjoy the delicious fruit well into the winter months.

Hawthorns are beautiful in full bloom, and while they can be incorporated into a hedgerow, they are even more spectacular as a single tree.

How to Grow Hawthorn in the Landscape @ Gardening Know How

9. Rowan/Mountain ash (Sorbus americana)

A male American robin perches in a rowan ash tree that is covered in bright orange berries.
I don’t know, judging by the look on his face, I don’t think he wants to share.

Have you ever been out on a walk and seen these stunning orange berries on an early autumn day?

Waxwings, redwings, and thrushes certainly have noticed them, perhaps even before you did.

If you have the chance to harvest some before the birds eat them all, they can be made into mouthwatering jams and jellies. Just refrain from eating them raw (which can have unpleasant side-effects).

10. Crabapples (Malus sylvestris)

A crabapple is in bloom with pink flowers in the spring.
The blooms make this crabapple a great choice for pollinators as well as birds.

A versatile tree to have in the garden is a crabapple. Not only is the spring blossoming spectacular, the fruit is useful too.

When catering to the birds, however, you’ll want to choose a variety that has smaller fruits. Throughout the year the crabapple will attract robins, cardinals, thrushes, finches, waxwings, pine grosbeaks and more.

11. Viburnum (Viburnum sp.)

A close up of an arrowwood viburnum with its vibrant blue berries.
The striking blue berries of the arrowwood viburnum make a nice change from the usual red.

If there are two things that birds love, it must be berries and branches. Best if the two of them go together, as is the case with arrowwood viburnum.

12. Mulberries (Morus rubra)

A cedar waxwing perched on a mulberry tree with a fruit in its beak.
If you’ve got the room, a mulberry will bring in some beautiful visitors to your yard.

Red mulberries are native to eastern and central North America, so it comes without surprise that birds have come to count on its nutritious berries in the early part of summer.

Be forewarned, they’re not for every garden, due to their enormous size. Mulberries can routinely grow 30 plus feet, even up to 80 feet.

There are those that dislike them for their staining fruits and others that enjoy eating from the tree for, once again, the berries are also edible for human consumption. Dare I say it’s another one of my favorites? Especially when dehydrated into a crunchy snack…

13. Oak (Quercus sp.)

A young owl looks at the camera from an oak tree branch.
The mighty oak can play host to large and stately birds.

While an oak is considered a very large tree, and one might not think of it straight away to attract birds, it is a very good one for several species, including:

  • woodpeckers
  • jays
  • grouse
  • wild turkey

Squirrels and owls can benefit from large specimens as well. If you have the land to dedicate to large trees, plant them with the future in mind and let them grow and grow and grow.

14. Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

A tufted titmouse sits in an eastern red cedar tree.

Another native tree to North America is the eastern red cedar. As a border/edge plant it can also grow to great heights (40-50′), though not nearly as mountainous as a spruce.

An eastern red cedar tree is covered in bright blue juniper berries.
There is nothing more striking in a winter landscape then the blue-studded eastern red cedar with a few birds in its branches.

Tall trees are secure places for birds to nest and are a necessity in the landscape. If not at your home, then in a park or an arboretum.

15. Grapes, particularly the wild ones (Vitis sp.) and other vines

Wild grapes, leaves, and vines.
Don’t forget to save your grape vines so you can make your own grape vine wreathes.

Anytime you can provide camouflage, birds will take advantage of it.

Wild grapes make for out-of-the-way, undisturbed nesting sites with plenty of natural cover. For the birds, this also means a source of food close to home.

Robins, catbirds, orioles, cardinals, thrashers, bluebirds, waxwings, scarlet tanagers, pileated and downy woodpeckers, will all want to come and see what your mess of wild grapes has to offer.

This list of trees and shrubs to attract birds is by no means complete. There are plenty more options out there. Start with identifying your local and native plants first, then choose a planting concept. This can take several years, so sit back with a pair of waterproof binoculars and enjoy the journey.

A tufted titmouse sits on a branch of winterberry in the snow.
Thanks for the berries!

To find a list of deciduous and evergreen shrubs and trees categorized by size, this article on trees and shrubs that attract birds from the Morton Arboretum, is extremely useful. It is complete with Latin and common names, as well as listing what part of the plant is useful, along with when the fruits ripen.

Before planting, examine your backyard space and garden with the birds in mind. Imagine what it might be like to fly from branch to branch, to stop for a drink of fresh water and fly back to your perch again.

Above all, make it fun! For you, and the birds.

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Cheryl Magyar

Well, hello, szia and bună ziua!

My name is Cheryl Magyar and I am a homesteader, organic no-dig gardener and preserver of fruits, vegetables, herbs and life in general. I'm also a forager and a rewilder, rewilding myself and our land in Breb, Romania, along with my husband and our teenage daughter.

Since 2001 I have been living a simple life, going on 15+ years without running water inside our home, heating with firewood cut with a two-wo/man crosscut saw and enjoying the quiet solitude of the countryside where haystacks outnumber the people.

What you wouldn't guess about me, is that I was born and raised in a suburb of Chicago. If I can do this, you can too! It's a life you get to choose, so choose wisely. Because I know you're curious, I've spent 8 years homesteading (raising mangalica pigs, goats and ducks) and gardening on our tanya in Ópusztaszer, Hungary. This lifestyle is going on 8 years in Romania. I wouldn't change it for the world.

To discover more about me, and about us:

you can follow on Instagram
read into our website at Forest Creek Meadows
stop by for a visit and/or a (re)workshop
or shop our growing Etsy store Earth Gratitude Studio

Hope to see you around!