Bird lovers are always looking for more ways to layer in plants that will attract, feed, and shelter our avian friends. The first thing you want to do is survey your yard to assess its bird-friendliness. Keep in mind that grasses that grow along a fence should be left tall to provide cover, a dead tree trunk will provide nesting and remember, a perfectly manicured yard and garden won’t be as inviting since there won’t be enough cover to protect birds from predators such as hawks or felines. If you do have feline pets and you're still looking to attract birds, it's best to keep them inside or only let them out at night when birds are not feeding.
Once you've surveyed your yard, you'll want to create a paradise with fruiting, flowering, and foliage plants to provide food and cover that backyard birds crave. Add plants offering fruit, flowers, and seeds throughout the year. Spring and Summer are easy times for birds as nature is awash with insects and fresh fruits. Wild strawberries are an excellent ground cover, fruit trees and berry bushes make natural bird feeders with blueberries, raspberries and elderberries always appreciated. Fall brings berries on viburnum and sumacs. Winter birds are drawn to fruits of Ilex/holly, cotoneaster and pyracantha and seeds of sweetgum tree.
Here are some berries that are bird favorites for each month:
- June: blueberries, mulberry, raspberries
- July: Chokeberry/Aronia, highbush blueberry, Viburnum
- August: Arrowwood/Viburnum, Elderberry/Sambucus, Cherry
- September: Dogwood, Pyracantha, Ilex glabra/Inkberry, Viburnum
- October-January: Bayberry, Inkberry, Holly to name a few
Native Trees, Shrubs & Perennials
Long Island native trees, shrubs and perennials offer birds and pollinators the nectar, seeds, and berries to flourish:
- Betula/Birch is a favorite of finch, junco, titmouse, cedar waxwing
- Tilia/Linden is a favorite of bobwhite, grouse, redpoll,
- Juniperus/Red Cedar is a favorite of all birds native to eastern US
- Cornus Florida/Flowering dogwood - loved by cardinals, vireo, woodpeckers,
- Malus/Flowering crabapple will attract finch, rose breasted grosbeak, mockingbird, towhee.
- Amelanchier/serviceberries have white spring blooms and small fruits that attract robins, cardinals, and woodpeckers.
- Elderberry and Highbush blueberry attract more than 100 bird species, Ilex verticillato -all songbirds
- Viburnum - bluebird, flicker, robin, thrush, waxwing.
- Perennials such as New England Asters must be allowed to go to seed to attract cardinal, chickadee, goldfinch, sparrow, titmouse, towhee, so no deadheading!
- Echinacea puperea and Rudbeckia Coneflowers do not need deadheading as seed pods attract cardinal, chickadee, goldfinch, house finch, nuthatch, purple finch, sparrow, and titmouse.
- Sunflowers are a favorite of chickadee, goldfinch, house finch, meadowlark, mourning dove, red-winged blackbird, tree sparrow and tufted titmouse.
- Planting natives such as Liatris/blazing star, Monarda, Purple coneflowers and Asters together creates a low-maintenance meadow where insects and the birds that eat them will flock.
Insects provide at least one third of the female cardinal’s diet in addition to fruits and seeds (black oil sunflower seeds her favorite!) Many songbirds feed on insects, including garden pests such as aphids, grasshoppers, scale, snails, and slugs so please avoid insecticides that will harm the birds that eat the poisoned insects. Organic gardening offers a natural balance.
Annual Seeds to plant
- Sunflowers - American Goldfinch, Scarlet Runner Bean Vine, Cardinal Flower Vine, Spanish Flag Vine for Hummingbirds.
- Zinnias, Cosmos, Pentas, Nicotiana and Cleome - important for blooms all summer into fall and seeds favored by buntings, cardinals, and finches. Important to plant in multiples to create a bed of blooms.
- State Fair Zinnias are tall, perfect for cut flowers and provide nectar and seeds
One of our Frequent Flower Club members reports her Hummingbirds returned early May! It is time to get your feeders loaded and plants ready!
Aquilegia/Columbine, Heuchera/Coral Bells, Black & Blue, Rocking Fuchsia, and Rocking Blue Salvias, Vermillion Cuphea, and Fuchsia are in bloom now with Nepeta/Catmint, Penstemon, Agastache/hyssop and Monarda/Bee Balm, Cleome, Butterfly bush soon to follow. These are all favorites of Ruby Throated Hummingbirds who spend their summers on Long Island. Pineapple sage/Salvia Elegans is a later blooming herb that has magnificent red trumpet shape blooms for September.
Do not forget the H2O, provide bird baths with a water wiggler or a fountain for drinking & bathing!