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September 12th, 2014

How To Attract Birds With Trees And Shrubs

You can turn your backyard landscape into a small bird kingdom by simply adding the appropriate trees and shrubs. The right balance of foliage in your backyard will create a bird-friendly habitat that is sure to attract a variety of your favorite birds. Your efforts will pay off in the end when you complete the creation of your own private bird-like sanctuary.

Trees & Shrubs

Trees - Do some research to find out what trees are native to your area. Planting native trees is important because they provide the correct habitat that native birds are looking for. For instance, a female Carolina Chickadee will bypass a dozen non-indigenous trees in order to find a one Willow Oak tree that naturally suits her foraging needs. Why, because her instincs tell her that a Willow Oak is where she is going to find the food that produce more insects than non-native species do. Native trees are more likely to provide the right combination of elements that indigenous birds require.

Shrubs - If you enjoy birdwatching, the opportunities are much better if you plant the right shrubs. For example, if you enjoy the sound of a mockingbird, then you might consider adding a chiltepin plant to your backyard. The chiltepin is a shrub that grows to about 4-5' feet tall, and during it's producing season, a mockingbird is sure to find it, as they love to eat the small red berry-shaped peppers that grow from it.

Shrubs and other plants that produce blossoms will attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, and all doing their part in helping the pollination process.

Many birds build their nests in trees, however, the eastern bluebird prefers shrubs as low as 3-5' feet up from the ground. Mounting a light-weight bluebird nestbox on a sturdy branch in thick foliage will attract a mother bluebird and help her raise her young. Mounting near open spaces is even better, as they will have a wide view of insects on the ground from the nestbox location.

Native Trees

Planting native trees will help attract a wide variety of bird species while preserving the surrounding environment. Trees are an essential part of bird survival, and the right trees can give your local feathered friends everything they need for food, shelter and nesting. Trees can also supply birds with water from dew and rain water that is collected on the leaves. Many birds will even rub up against wet leaves to bathe and clean themselves.

Non-Native Trees

Non-native species may also be a good choice, as they are not always invasive to other native trees in the same area. Non-native trees don't necessarily come from far away, they may come from neighboring areas but from different ecosystems. Pine trees, for example, can flourish in desert areas and other climate regions, but they will need some human assistance as far as hydration. The root systems from larger pine trees usually pose no serious threat to sidewalks and foundations.

It's important to recognize that some species grow very fast and spread seeds that germinate quickly. This can result in the competition and displacement of other desirable plants and trees, not only in your yard, but surrounding neighborhood. The root systems of some trees can also be invasive. Try to avoid planting Poplars, Willows, American Elm and Silver Maples.

Planting in Groups

If you observe nature, you'll notice that trees usually grow next to each other in groups. Planting in groups will promote cross-pollination and fertilization, which means more leaves, blossoms and fruits for birds to enjoy. It also means more shelter and nesting materials. Planting large and small trees close to each other creates multiple layers and gives more bird species important resources in which to survive.


Think about where you want to plant your trees and how their locations will affect surrounding aspects of your home. Mulberry trees are a deciduous tree that Robins, Waxwings and Cardinals like to nest in, however, the fallen fruit is messy and can stain sidewalks. The Silver Maple grows so fast that it becomes brittle and breaks easily during storms. Their roots are notorious for cracking driveways and sidewalks. Pine trees are always a great choice, but once their branches interfere with power lines, they must be trimmed back, never to grow back again. Eucalypyus trees (Australian immigrant) grow rampant in California and are a popular choice for domestic parots gone wild, but think twice when allowing one to grow too close to a pool - they are known for dropping big heavy branches. Planning for the right location will help you accurately account for maintenance and also more serious issues such as overhead electrical wires, underground pipes, cement slabs, fences and neighboring airspace.


When choosing trees for birds, it is important to first consider your local climate. Hardwood trees, such as Maple, mainly grow well in colder climates and need freezing temperatures for the sap to run. The Chitalpa tree, a heat loving blossom tree, will grow 2 feet a year up to 30 feet in hot deserts. They produce a bright pink bloom that will persist through fall and is a good choice for birds that like flowering trees.


Consider the chemistry of your soil by testing the soil for pH and nutrient level. Test kits are available at most nurseries and home improvement stores. The texture of your soil is also important. There are three types - sand, silt, and clay. Water-loving trees may have trouble in sand, since water is not retained well. On the other hand, clay can kill trees that require excellent drainage.

Trees will grow more quickly and be healthier if you prepare the soil before planting. Lightly fertilize the area directly affected after digging to help the root system make the transition from the pot to the ground. When the tree is planted, lightly add a little more fertilizer to the top area around the trunk and add water.

Careful consideration will result in a more functional tree environment and will give birds many options that suit their healthy-tree preferences. Consider two basic types of trees:

Deciduous Trees: A broad-leafed tree that lose their leaves in the winter but produce flowers and buds in the spring. They are also capable of providing some stunning shades and colors in the fall. Many Deciduous Trees produce fruit. The leaf litter is also a fine source of food for ground-feeding birds in the fall, and it also provides nesting material in the spring.

Coniferous Trees: An evergreen trees that have stiff needle-like leaves that stay on the tree year-round, making them essential for winter shelter for birds, particularly in areas with heavy snowfall. Many birds will also feed on seeds from the cones of coniferous trees.

Birds get their food not only from the fruits of trees but from their seeds, cones, blossoms and nectar. Selecting trees that provide these food types will provide birds with a reliable food source in every season. Some trees produce food types that reach their ripening stage in spring, and others in summer or winter. Birdwatching and picture-taking opportunities are much more bountiful if you decorate your landscape with a variety of trees that birds prefer.


There are many types of wild birds that will become your life long friend if you have a variety of shrubs around your home. You will have a deeper appreciation of the environment if your yard is benefiting birds as well as bees and butterflies. There are many shrubs that attract these creatures, and fortunately, there are many choices you can make that will include species tolerant of various climate and soil conditions.

Shrubs for food: There are many varieties of shrubs and small trees that will attract birds to their fruit. Growing North American natives like the dogwoods, Carolina buckthorn, blueberries, hollies, mulberry, sumac, blackberries, and viburnums will ensure that the favorite foods of native bird species are available to them. The blossoms will also attract honey bees which in turn will help in the pollination process and sustain biodiversity.

Shrubs for shelter: Although some birds nest high in large trees, many species, such as the Eastern Bluebird and others, prefer shrubs or limbs as low as 3 or 4 feet from the ground. Shrubs with dense cover and lots of branches are usually preferred for nesting over shrubs with open spaces between their branches. Heavenly bamboo (not a true bamboo) is a beautiful evergreen with dense and finely toothed foliage. The hollies are also useful as nesting shrubs due to their prickly leaves, which act as deterrents to predators. Gooseberries and multiflora roses are also good.

If you rely on a local nursery or garden center, choose one that is reputable with a wide selection of vibrant plants and knowledgeable staff. A talented horticultural professional with his/her own area of expertise should be particularly familiar with plant choices and cultural practices suited to helping you plan your bird haven. Ask them to specifically help you with plant selection, design challenges, plant identification, plant problem diagnostics and bird preferences with certain plant species.

Select shrubs that are healthy and well cared for so they will survive the transition from the nursery to your yard. Shrubs should have a symmetrical form with no gaping spaces or broken branches. They should not be wilting or damaged. Their colors should be appropriate to the current season. Make sure there is no evidence of diseases or insect damage/infestation.

Crawlers and Creepers - These provide further foliage and take up little space. They can add beauty and character to a plain rock wall, fence or divider. Climbers and creepers also boost insect population and draw birds near. Clematis, dog rose and honeysuckle are traditional favorites. If you're a hummingbird fan, plant various species of Honeysuckle. The brightly colored blossoms will attract hummingbirds of different species.

Organic Landscaping

Organic landscapes and gardens involve treating shrubs, vegetable plants, trees and soil without the use of chemicals. Learning what's involved in organic landscaping helps you, your neighbors and wildlife. The absence of toxic chemicals allows green foliage as well as birds to thrive and become healthier while maintaining the ground and water tables in their natural state. Try making your own compost with coffee grounds, banana peels, egg shells, wood chips, etc. This is cheaper than fertilizer and works great.

Basically, the right choice of trees and shrubs is something that will make both birds and you happy! Don't be tempted to plant a certain tree because the species looks great or grows fast. Yes,. Eucalyptus trees grow very fast (10' feet in a year), but they also have a bad habit of simply falling over during rain storms. When the ground becomes water soaked, the top-heavy tree cannot resist the wind forces from pushing the tree above ground, causing the tree to 'pivot' on it's ball root below, and falling over. Willow trees look great, but their aggressive root systems are water hungry and will terrorize other plants. The wood is weak and prone to cracking, and the life span is only about 30 years.

Putting in some honest time and effort will have a big pay off for everyone. Your hard work and dedication will result in a yard with the right tree and shrub schematics, benefiting you, wildlife and your neighbors. Your landscape will also have long-lasting resources that will benefit future generations to come by helping mother nature to sustain herself and evolve.


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