Native Plants for Native Birds

Sarah Gorton

Want to boost the bird variety in your yard? Check out our top recommendations of fowl-friendly flora.

There are plenty of reasons to opt for native plants when it comes to your landscape. Among them: less watering, minimal maintenance and little-to-no use of fertilizers and pesticides.

But here’s another great benefit to having an au naturel landscape: native birds. (And I’m not just talking about doves and grackles.)

Golf course-like yards with stretches of St. Augustine grass lack safe spaces for birds to hide from predators. Native plants, on the other hand, provide more food and shelter options for native birds and other wildlife.

That’s why the National Audubon Society has a Plants for Birds program. The idea is to plant native species in your yard to provide the nutrients and shelter local birds need to survive.

You can boost the bird variety in your yard by planting some of our top recommendations of fowl friendly flora.

  • Hackberry is the number one tree for wildlife as it grows everywhere. Look closely at it near the end of summer or early fall and it’s almost always blanketed with butterflies. It may be difficult to find at a nursery, but put out a temporary clothes line and the birds will plant them for you!
  • Instead of a tree, consider a Barbados cherry. The birds can’t get enough of the fruit from this perennial shrub. It survives most winters and doesn’t need to be pruned back in the spring.
  • Purple coneflower is a great option to fill an open area. It’s not only beneficial when it blooms, but also when it wilts. Birds peck at the brown remains, eating the seeds on the spent flower. Buy a native wildflower seed mix that includes purple coneflower to grow a mix of plants that benefit pollinators, too.
  • Sunflowers are easy to grow and make for a fun summer yard pop-up. Maximilian sunflowers have massive flower heads that make perfect birdfeeders. You could even pluck some of the seeds and roast them for your own consumption. Sunflowers grow so prolifically that you can harvest some and still leave plenty for the birds.
  • Virginia creeper is one of a few natives that grows really well in the shade. It is often confused with poison ivy because if its red stem, but it’s perfectly safe. Small red berries provide food for birds and offer scarlet fall color. There aren’t any obvious showy flowers, but that’s why it would pair nicely with this next plant…
  • Crossvine is an evergreen vine with bright, trumpet-shaped flowers. They grow perfectly along a chain link fence to create a privacy screen and they don’t grow as aggressively as trumpet vine. The tangerine blooms bring hummingbirds abound! Their vining ability to grow up is nice if you are limited on space.

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