Support your feathered friends by planting these top avian attractions.
Chili Piquin (Capsicum annum) - all peppers are cultivars of this species. It’s nickname, “Bird-Eye Pepper” is an indication of how much birds love it. This well-behaved native plant does well in sunny to part shady locations and self-seeds. Unlike most peppers, it is perennial. Some people like to make hot-pepper sauce with them, but many birds love to eat them, including Blue Jays and Cardinals, but especially Mockingbirds!
Mulberry Tree (Morus sp.) - a summer fruiting tree that many birds love. The native species can make a mess on sidewalks or cars, the Pakistani variety doesn’t, though it is not as cold hardy. We also sometimes carry a very cold hardy Dwarf Ever-bearing Mulberry that gets 2-6’ tall. Birds love the fruit and they make good nesting sites, too. (Robin, waxwings, cardinals, numerous other songbirds).
Grapes (Vitis sp.) If you don’t want them for yourself, plant some grapes for your feathered friends. They feed on the fruit, and also provides excellent nest sites, nest material (shredding bark) and cover. Attracts: Robins, bluebirds, Red Cardinals, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Mockingbirds, Robins.
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is a native tree-climbing vine that fruits in the fall, persisting into winter. It turns a brilliant scarlet color in autumn. It is an important food source for many birds, and offers nest sites and cover. Robins, Cardinals, Pileated Woodpecker, Mockingbirds, blue jays.
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea spp.), along with other seed producing plants are an important food source for many birds, and are an important source of nutrition when insects are less available. Painted Buntings, Goldfinch, Cardinal and Blue Jay among others.
Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) after the bees and butterflies are finished gorging on the fall nectar and pollen, the birds arrive, drawn to their seeds. But there’s another reason birds love them. They host many types of insects including more than 100 species of butterflies and moths. A wildlife superstar! And contrary to popular belief, it is not wind pollinated, so actually does not cause allergies. Instead it is insect pollinated, with heavier, stickier, pollen grains that don’t get picked up by the wind. Instead, they rely on bees and other insects to carry pollen from flower to flower. One of my favorites is Little Lemon Goldenrod with its lemon-yellow flowers rising above 8-10” tall foliage. Zone 5. Attracts a bevy of birds including Painted Buntings, House Finch, Robins, Lesser Goldfinch.
Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) Besides being the sole plant host for monarch butterflies, many other insects are drawn to this plant, and in turn those insects are a great food source for many birds. Lesser Goldfinches, Carolina Chickadee and Golden Warblers use the milkweed fiber to build and line their nests.
Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervierens) has nectar rich flowers that attract Hummingbirds, and the fruit is relished by Waxwings, Robins, Bluebirds and finches.
Oaks (Quercus spp.) often have cavities in aging trees that are popular for nesting birds and the acorns are a food source, but its the insects that Oak trees support like ants, beetles and caterpillars that draws in the crowds of birds like the Pileated woodpeckers. More than 500 species of butterflies and moths feed on Oaks, and birds love insects! The acorns feed many types of birds like Black-crested titmouse, Blue Jays & Golden Warblers.
Cats are the most numerous pet in North America. Unfortunately, they kill hundreds of millions of birds each year. Ground-feeding and ground-nesting birds and fledglings are at greatest risk. Feeder birds are also easy prey. Protect birds from cats by keeping pets indoors or taking steps to discourage feral cats that will be irresistibly drawn to these acrobatic birds.
Interesting fact: most birds do not reproduce on berries and seeds, instead, most terrestrial birds rear their young on insects. So birds can be a gardener’s friend, eating many harmful bugs so they don’t harm your garden!