Berries for the Birds

Many people love having birds in their yard.  They’re pretty to look at and fun to watch.  The avid bird enthusiast may even know the names (maybe even the latin) for all their avian visitors.  One of the most common ways people attract birds is with a feeder of some kind; seed or suet, maybe even peanut butter.  While there is nothing wrong with keeping a bird feeder, there are a couple of drawbacks.  They create a mess; seed shells and bird droppings accumulate wherever they are placed.  You have to keep refilling it – at least if you want your birds to stick around.  And it’s a food source with a time-limit unless you plan on feeding your birds year-round.   Some people do just that, but many only have them out in the cold winter months.

So what’s a solution?  Well, if you have the space, why not plant for the birds instead?  Below is an article originally published on Mother Nature Network about 10 plants that produce berries that birds love.  These bloom at different times of the year too, so if you diversify, you can have berries nearly all year.

10 berries that birds love

These shrubs and trees produce attractive flowers that develop into a colorful berries, which will attract songbirds and other birds to your backyard.
Have you ever thought about birdscaping your garden? Birdscaping in this case doesn’t mean putting out a lot of feeders with different types of seed. It means planting the types of plants that will attract birds to your garden.
If birdscaping hasn’t made it to your gardening to-do list, a good way to get started is by planting berry-producing plants — and now is the perfect time of year to do that. These plants produce attractive flowers that develop into a colorful berries, which will attract songbirds and other birds that can turn the garden into a wildlife wonderland.
Here are 10 easy-to-grow berry-producing shrubs, vines and trees that produce berries that birds will love. Most of these plants should grow well throughout the United States, according to Bill Thompson III of Bird Watchers Digest in Marietta, Ohio. Consult with your local nursery or local native plant authority to find species in these plant families that are appropriate for your local region’s soil and climate. The birds listed below are just a sampling of the most common species that each plant attracts, according to Thompson.
As a bonus to help you get started with birdscaping, we’ve also included two popular fruit trees that birds love.
What berry-producing plants do you grow that attract birds to your garden? Jump into the comments section with names of the plants, the birds you see on them and where you live. We want to share that information with other gardeners and bird lovers.
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Because blackberries are vigorous growers that can root when they touch the ground, they can quickly become a tangled and impenetrable bramble of long, thorny stems that some consider invasive. You may hate them, but not the birds. They love them. New cultivars are available that grow erect and don’t have thorns. If you want to grow these, you’ll likely need bird netting to harvest them before a wide variety of birds devour them.
Grow as: A vine.
Blooms: Late spring and early summer.
Berries: Summer.
Attracts: Warblers, orioles, tanagers, thrashers, mockingbirds, catbirds, turkeys, robins and other thrushes.
Dogwoods are popular ornamental landscape plants because of their beautiful flowers, attractive foliage, showy fruit, fall color and winter form. There are 17 species of dogwood trees and shrubs in the United Stares. Three of the most commonly seen species are the pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifloia), which is found throughout much of the Eastern part of the country, the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), which has more of a southerly range, and the Pacific or mountain dogwood (Cornus nuthall), which is found from Central California to British Columbia.
Grow as: Most often seen as small trees, but there are many species of dogwood shrubs, such as red twigged dogwood (Cornus baileyi).
Blooms: Spring.
Berries: The berries ripen from summer to fall depending on the species and their high-fat content provides valuable nutrients for migrating songbirds in the fall.
Attracts: Bluebirds and other thrushes; woodpeckers; catbirds; thrashers; mockingbirds.
Elderberries have versatile garden uses as foundation shrubs or as eye-catching specimens in a mixed border. The plants produce umbrella-shaped clusters of attractive white flowers 8-10 inches wide that have vitamins A and B and more vitamin C than oranges. If you can resist using them in juices, jellies, jams, teas, pies, and wine, the birds will be grateful!
Grow as: Shrub or small tree.
Blooms: Spring.
Berries: The purple berries ripen in mid-late summer and September.
Attracts: Warblers; orioles; tanagers; catbirds; thrashers; mockingbirds; waxwings.
This is one of the most versatile and useful plants to attract birds to backyard gardens. With more than 400 species that range in size from creeping shrubs to trees 100 feet or more tall, one or more hollies should work in virtually any situation as long as there is adequate sunlight.
Grow as: Shrub or tree.
Blooms: Spring.
Berries: Colors range from red to yellow to orange to white or black. They ripen in the fall and, in some species, last until early spring.
Attracts: Bluebirds and other thrushes; woodpeckers; catbirds; thrashers; mockingbirds.
Native American junipers help birds through tough times. The berries provide food through the long cold days of winter and their dense branches and foliage provide shelter from biting winds. In spring, that same foliage helps protect nesting sights. Homeowners should be careful not to plant junipers too densely because the thick foliage will prevent understory plants from getting enough light to grow.
Grow as: Shrub or tree.
Blooms: Spring.
Berries: The berries aren’t very tasty, and wildlife tend to leave them alone in the fall. In winter, however, when not much else may be available, birds become much less picky about taste and juniper berries are much appreciated.
Attracts: Bobwhites; turkeys; bluebirds, robins, and other thrushes; thrashers; mockingbirds; catbirds; warblers; grosbeaks; jays; sapsuckers and other woodpeckers; waxwings. The foliage of junipers may provide protective shelter and even nesting sites for mockingbirds, thrashers, robins, waxwings, juncos, and various sparrows.
Mulberry trees were once extremely popular. But they are considered invasive, and the soft fruits, which stain sidewalks, cars, patio furniture, awnings, other outdoor items and anything else they touch when they fall and the large number of birds they attract, made them too messy for public spaces – and for many homeowners. There is a white form from Asia that was brought to the United States in the 1600s in a failed attempt to launch a silkworm industry. The native species (Mulberry rubra) is considered the best for cultivation in American gardens.
Grow as: A large tree, up to 30 feet tall.
Blooms: In the spring.
Berries: The fruits that resemble slender blackberries and, depending on species, mature from late spring to late summer.
Attracts: Warblers; orioles; tanagers; catbirds; thrashers; mockingbirds; bluebirds and other thrushes.
Any plant with the name “weed” can be a tough sell to gardeners. In the case of Pokeweed, (Phytolacca americana) it can be a particularly tough sell because all parts of the plant are poisonous to humans. It’s not toxic to birds, though. If you have a damp area where other plants may struggle, planting pokeweed will attract a wide variety of birds.
Grow as: Shrub.
Blooms: Summer.
Berries: Drooping clusters of glossy black berries appear on red stems in late summer.
Attracts: Warblers; orioles; tanagers; waxwings; woodpeckers; wrens; bluebirds and other thrushes; catbirds; thrashers; mockingbirds.
Shadbush is also known as serviceberry and Juneberry. It gets the name shadbush and serviceberry from a bygone era. It blooms in the spring when immense schools of shad once returned to New England rivers. This was about the same time that winter was ending and roads were passable for circuit preachers to return to settlements. This was also was the time the ground had thawed enough for funeral services to be held and graves dug for those who had died during the long winter. The berries appear in June, hence the name Juneberry.
Grow as: Shrub or small tree.
Blooms: Produces masses of white or pinkish flowers in spring, April through May depending on locality.
Berries: The red berries are tasty and useful for pies, jellies and even in making wine.
Attracts: Robins; waxwings; orioles; woodpeckers; chickadees; cardinals; jays; doves; and finches.
Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) is a popular ornamental native to the Northeast, Midwest and Appalachian Mountains with leaves that resemble fronds. The plant gets its name from its branching habit, which resemble deer antlers. It is not to be confused with poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix), a completely different plant.
Grow as: Shrub or small tree.
Blooms: May to July.
Berries: The berries form in spikey, dense red clusters at the terminal ends of branches and can last through winter and into spring.
Attracts: Warblers; woodpeckers; chickadees; bluebirds and other thrushes; catbirds; thrashers; mockingbirds.
With more than 150 species, viburnums are one of America’s most popular flowering landscape shrubs. They grow in a wide range of temperatures in USDA zones 2-9, and there is a variety to tolerate virtually any garden condition: wet or dry, sun or shade, natural or formal.
Grow as: Shrub or tree.
Blooms: Early spring through June.
Berries: Red, yellow, blue or black berries appear in fall. Some last through the winter.
Attracts: Robins, bluebirds, thrushes, catbirds, cardinals, finches, waxwings, others.
And 2 bonus fruit trees
Cherry trees are among the most popular ornamental trees for attracting birds to the garden. Be aware, though, that birds aren’t very hospitable when it comes to sharing! If you want some of the fruit for yourself, the best way to accomplish that might be to plant an early fruiting mulberry tree. That, though, as noted above, can have its own drawbacks!
Grow as: Tree.
Blooms: Spring.
Fruit: June.
Attracts: Waxwings; bluebirds, robins, and other thrushes; grosbeaks, cardinals and finches.
Crabapples make beautiful ornamental trees for home landscapes because of their attractive spring flowers and foliage. If you are able to obtain a variety that makes small fruit, less than three-fourths inch in diameter, you also be rewarded with a variety of appreciative birds. The smaller the fruit, the easier it is for birds to eat. If possible, also select a variety with fruit that persists on the tree, rather than one that drops its fruit quickly after it ripens.
Grow as: Tree.
Blooms: Spring.
Fruit: The fruit appears in the fall and can persist through the winter.
Attracts: Robins; waxwings; grosbeaks; crossbills.

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