How to Attract Birds With Trees and Shrubs

Maryjane E. Cason

You can turn your backyard into a bird kingdom by simply adding the appropriate trees and shrubs. The right balance of foliage will create a bird-friendly habitat that is sure to attract a variety of your favorite birds. You will be proud to know that you are now the keeper of your own private bird-like sanctuary.


Native Trees – By doing a little research, you can find out what trees are native to your area. Native trees are more likely to provide the right combination of attributes that indigenous birds require. Planting non-invasive trees will help attract a wide variety of bird species while preserving the their natural 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 even supply birds with water since leaves collect water that small birds can drink. Many birds will actually rub up against wet leaves to bathe and clean themselves.

Non-native Trees – Trees that are non-natives may also be a good choice, as they are not always invasive to 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, may not grow naturally in your local neighborhood, but they can still flourish in your desert backyard with some tender loving care,. and their root systems pose little threat to sidewalks and driveways.

Location – If you look at nature, you’ll notice that trees usually grow next to each other in groups. This promotes cross-pollination and fertilization, which means more leaves, blossoms and fruit for birds to eat. 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 something important in which to live and multiply. Be careful when planting trees that are water hungry. Planting several trees within a close proximity can cause a water depletion in the soil. Willows, Eastern Red Cedars, Bald Cypress and River Birch are trees that can soak up large amounts of water every day.

Think about how the location of a tree will affect surrounding parts 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 roots of a Silver Maple 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. Eucalyptus trees (Australian immigrant) grow rampant in California and are a popular choice for domestic parrots 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 issues such as overhead electrical wires, underground pipes, cement slabs, fences and neighboring airspace.

Climate and Soil – When choosing trees for birds, it is important to consider your local climate. Extreme heat and cold will not fair well with trees that depend on moderate temperatures. Soil is also important to consider. Testing the soil for pH and nutrient level can be done with test kits that are available in 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.

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.


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. In windy environments, try to avoid planting shrubs and trees that cause allergic reactions. However, making the right choices can aid in the cross-pollination process can help your ecosystem as a whole.

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.

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, plant identification, plant problem diagnostics and bird preferences with certain plant species.

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. 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,.. it’s cheaper than fertilizer and works great.

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. This not only benefits you, but wildlife and your neighbors while making bird photography and bird watching opportunities more bountiful. 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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