by Matt Gibson
Which berries attract birds to your garden? Maintaining a beautiful garden getaway on your property is a wonderful task to undertake, but why keep it a secret from your neighborhood’s birds? One of the easiest and most efficient ways to invite birds to your garden is by planting berry-producing plants. The following 12 berry-producing shrubs, trees, and vines, will attract songbirds and other feathered friends to your yard from miles around.
Birdscaping is the art of gardening with the intention of luring and attracting a wide array of birds to your garden. Birdscaping is not about buying and placing a bunch of bird feeders full of seeds and birdbaths inside your garden’s fences (though feeders and a bath will be greatly appreciated by the birds). Birdscaping, in this case, is all about choosing and planting the type of plants that will attract many different species of birds to your garden. One of the best ways to bring birds into your garden is to plant berry-producing plants.
Berries are some of the most natural and essential food sources for birds. Berry plants can also lure birds close by sprouting colorful blooms that catch the attention of any birds who happen to fly by. Berry plants are also very easy to grow and require very little maintenance once the plants are established. So, even if you are not a seasoned gardener, you can have a lot of success tailoring your garden to attract birds, and planting a nice variety of berry-producing plants is a great place to start. Once your berry plants start bearing fruit, your garden is sure to be a wildlife wonderland.
Perfect for a foundation shrub or a standout in a mixed border, the elderberry shrub will bring all the birds to the yard. In the spring, the elderberry shrub produces umbrella-like clusters of large, showy, white flowers that span eight to ten inches in width. The nectar produced by the flowerheads is basically a superfood for birds It contains vitamins A and B, and more vitamin C than oranges. Dark purple berries ripen in mid-late Summer through September, and can be harvested to use in jellies, jams, teas, and pies, or left on the vine for the birds to enjoy. Elderberry plants will bring a large variety of birds, including warblers, orioles, tanagers, catbirds, waxwings, mockingbirds, and thrashers.
There are over 400 different species of Holly, ranging in size from tiny ground cover shrubs to massive trees that tower as high as 100 feet. There is a species of holly that will suit just about any location you can pick, as long as the spot gets plenty of direct sunlight. Holly berries range in color from yellow, orange, and red, to white and black. In the springtime, holly plants produce clusters of tiny white flowers, luring the likes of woodpeckers, catbirds, mockingbirds, thrashers, bluebirds, and thrushes.
The juniper plant is a winter bird’s best friend. The plant’s dense branches and thick foliage provides shelter from cold winter winds, as well as a sturdy, cushioned support for making nests. The berries, though not terribly tasty, provide essential nutrients that can carry birds through tough winters. Small white to lavender blooms appear on the tips of the stems during the spring, attracting bobwhites, warblers, grosbeaks, jays, bluebirds, robins, thrushes, turkeys, mockingbirds, catbirds, woodpeckers, sapsuckers, and waxwings.
Towhees and sparrows are among the birds that adore the raspberry plant. The plant’s dense patches provide excellent shelter for smaller birds, who sometimes nest in or nearby raspberry plants all throughout the growing season. The only problem with using raspberry plants to lure in birds, is having to share your raspberries.
The eye-catching pinkish-purple berries that appear in showy clusters on the branches of the beautyberry plant are a favorite of birds and gardeners alike. The berry covered branches also make for wonderful additions to cut flower arrangements, as they last a long time in a vase before starting to droop or lose color. Reaching 4 feet high, the beautyberry bush thrives in light shade but produces more fruit in full sun. Hardy to zones 6-8, the beautyberry plant provides a wide array of birds with moisture, nutrition, and shelter during harsh winters.
Mockingbirds, robins, and other birds flock to the winterberry bush during the fall months as the leaves drop and the branches become flush with bright red berries. Be sure to purchase and plant both a male and a female plant, as the winterberry requires a pollinator to produce fruit. Hardy to zones 3-9, this North American holly bush is sure to bring flocks of birds to your garden.
The blackberry plant is nearly impossible to kill. Its vines grow vigorously, often twisting and tangling into an inseparable bramble of long, thorny stems. Considered to be an invasive plant in some regions, the delicious blackberry fruit is both a human and an avian favorite, luring in the likes of turkeys, robins, thrushes, warblers, tanagers, orioles, catbirds, thrashers and mockingbirds alike.
Most commonly grown as a small tree, dogwood produces berries from summer to fall and small, five-petaled white, yellow, or green blooms in the spring. There are 17 different species of dogwood trees and shrubs in the United States. The blooms are popular amongst gardeners and nature lovers, but the birds are all about the berries, which have a high-fat content and are chock full of valuable nutrients that are essential to migrating songbirds, who feast on the berries to fatten up during the fall to help them through the winter.
Commonly known as the cranberry, the viburnum is one of the United States most prolific flowering landscape shrub. Hardy to USDA zones 2-9, the viburnum shrub is one of the easiest plants to grow, as it is tolerant and adaptable to virtually any growing environment. The cranberry bush flowers from early spring through June and produces berries in the fall that range in hue from bright red and yellow to dark blue or black. The Viburnum is a favorite of robins, catbirds, thrushes, cardinals, finches, waxwings, and bluebirds.
Also called serviceberry, or juneberry, the shadbush shrubs and trees typically sprout white to pinkish blooms from April to May. Its bright red berries, though not very common in culinary circles, are quite tasty, and can be used to make pies, jellies, and wine. Shadbush berries are coveted by robins, waxwings, orioles, woodpeckers, chickadees, cardinals, jays, doves, and finches.
Bayberry, also referred to as candleberry, sweet gale, and wax myrtle, is a genus of around 35-50 small trees and shrubs. The berries that the bayberry plants produce, hold a special place in the heart of warblers. While most warblers spend the winter months in Central and South America, flocks of the yellow-rumped warblers stay in the southern United States throughout the winter, nesting near and feeding on bayberries throughout the cold season. In fact, the warbler is so closely linked to the bayberry shrub, that the eastern subspecies of the yellow-rumped warbler is also commonly known as the myrtle warbler. The bayberry is also enjoyed by bluebirds, grosbeaks, robins, flickers, thrushes and finches. Both a male and a female plant are needed to pollinate and produce fruit.
There are many different types of currant bush, nearly all of which produce both pleasant-scented blooms and lots of berries. Though most species of currants produce berries that don’t play well on the human palate, birds of all shapes and sizes beg to differ. Currants are especially popular with hummingbirds, who occasionally snack on the berries, but are mainly drawn to the fragrant flowers that bloom throughout the spring and summer.
Similar to the blueberry, the huckleberry is consumed by a wide variety of birds and mammals, who are drawn to the plant for it’s nutritious fruit and colorful blooms. A flock of waxwings will make short work of a huckleberry bush. Mockingbirds are commonly seen defending their perch atop the huckleberry bush, selfishly hoarding all of the fruit that it produces for themselves.
Birds are drawn to berry-producing plants for a variety of reasons. The berries themselves are often high in calories, making them a great choice for a nutrient rich snack during harsh winters when other food sources are scarce. Berries are also high in antioxidants, which help our avian friends fight off disease and mitigate the stress of migration. Berry bushes and trees are also often perfect shelter sources for nesting. Berry bushes, shrubs, and trees serve as not only a vital food source, but also as a shelter, protecting them from harsh weather as well as fierce predators.