As the garden catalogs fill your mailbox, and you start making plans for your yard and garden next year, don’t forget about the birds.

Gardens are outdoor sanctuaries for birds, insects, and other wildlife, and every spring, migrating birds visit yards looking for nourishment and protection to raise their young.

Birdscaping is the intentional effort to provide a natural setting to attract wildlife, especially birds, to an area, most typically your own backyard.

Most landscaping plants in nurseries are exotic species that are prized for qualities that make them poor food sources for wildlife. Some can even become invasive. By adding native plants to your yard, balcony, garden, or rooftop, you can help birds in the face of climate change, urban development, and other threats.

There are many different ways you can provide a bird-friendly landscape. Here are some examples of plants you can use to attract different bird species:

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  • Impatiens, marigolds, sunflowers and zinnias. Hummingbirds consume their nectar, and chickadees and goldfinches are two of the birds that will head from their seed heads. These annuals also feed cardinals, native sparrows, house wrens, robins and other birds that eat fallen seeds.

Native perennials

  • Asters jand bee balm produce nectar and seeds that feed hummingbirds, chickadees, goldfinches, cardinals, native sparrows, house wrencs and robins.
  • Butterfly weed blooms early spring and feeds hummingbirds.
  • Cardinal flowers produce nectar for hummingbirds and are a special favorite of cardinals.
  • Penstemon will attract hummingbirds.
  • Purple coneflowers will attract birds that eat from seed heads, such as chickadees and goldfinches.


  • American highbush cranberry, which contains berries through winter, and serviceberry, which produces fruit in the summer, will attract berry-eating birds such as the American robin and cedar waxwing.


  • The black cherry tree attracts 429 species of larval insects, which then attract birds that eat larval insects. Those birds include orioles, scarlet tanagers, warblers and woodpeckers; fruit-eating birds like rose-breasted grosbeaks and Baltimore orioles; and year-round birds like cardinals and chickadees. The wilted leaves and twigs are poisonous to livestock.
  • Bur oak and white oak attract 518 species of larval insects which feed birds that eat larval insects, while its acorns attract blue jays, turkeys, grouse and wood ducks.
  • Crab apples attract birds that eat fruit, berries and nectar.
  • Hackberry trees attract 41 larval insects, which attract birds that eat larval insects.
  • Native mountain ash varieties produce berries that are a favorite of cedar waxwings, yellow-bellied sapsuckers and ruffed grouse.
  • Northern white cedar provides nesting sites for northern cardinals.
  • Spruces provide year-round cover and nesting sites. Their cones produce seeds that attract birds like blue jays, chickadees, nuthatches and crossbills. They are also a favorite nesting site for northern cardinals.
  • White pines provide insect habitat and year-round cover, while their cones produce seed. They attract 191 larval insects which feed birds like pine grosbeaks.

For more information about native plants that attract birds, visit the Audubon Society’s native plan database at

Until next time, happy garden planning!


“A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” — Maya Angelou

Robin Trott is a horticulture educator with University of Minnesota Extension. Contact her at 320-762-3890, or at