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How to Attract Birds to Your Yard: 21 Plants for a Bird Garden

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: May 21, 2020 • 4 min read

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Ron Finley Teaches Gardening

How do you transform your yard into a bird-friendly habitat? Installing birdbaths and bird feeders is a great start, but planting native plants that attract birds will create a beautiful bird garden.

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Ron Finley Teaches GardeningRon Finley Teaches Gardening

Community activist and self-taught gardener Ron Finley shows you how to garden in any space, nurture your plants, and grow your own food.

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13 Plants and Flowers to Attract Birds

An assortment of plants and flowers—both annuals, and perennials—is key to attracting a variety of birds. Some birds are enticed by fruit and seeds, others drink the nectar in certain types of wildflowers, and insectivorous birds hunt the insects found on specific plants. When choosing bird-friendly plants to grow in your yard, consider the following options:

  1. Aster: Named after the ancient Greek word for "star" (based on the shape of its flower), these fall bloomers liven up your yard with an array of purple, blue, pink, and white and attract many types of songbirds.
  2. Black-eyed Susan: Black-eyed Susans have a brown center surrounded by bright yellow daisy-like petals. They make a great addition to a full-sun garden and contain seed heads that attract chickadees, American goldfinches, and house finches.
  3. Columbine: This easy-to-grow perennial flower is available in many alluring colors and attracts hummingbirds (as well as butterflies). It's a self-seeding plant, meaning it will keep thriving in your yard for years without replanting.
  4. Coreopsis: Also known as tickseed, this yellow flowering plant offers natural birdseed for chickadees, finches, and sparrows, while its flowers entice hummingbirds.
  5. Goldenrod: This bright yellow birdseed plant feeds sparrows, finches, and juncos (and its nectar and pollen attract butterflies and bees). Goldenrod blooms in late summer and early fall.
  6. Marigold: These vibrant annuals bloom for the entire summer. Marigolds appeal to insects, which in turn attract insectivorous birds. Be wary of crows and blackbirds, which are known to tear apart marigold flowers searching for insects.
  7. Monarda: Also known as bee balm, this nectar-rich flowering plant comes in red, pink, and purple varieties. Once it blooms in midsummer, it attracts hummingbirds and beneficial pollinating insects.
  8. Penstemon: Commonly called “beardtongues” since the flowers resemble open mouths with fuzzy tongues, penstemons are perfect for hummingbirds.
  9. Purple coneflower: This member of the Echinacea genus has seed covered "cones" that are a vital autumn food source for many birds like blue jays, goldfinches, cardinals, chickadees, and pine siskins.
  10. Salvia: This type of sage comes in annual, biennial, or perennial varieties. It blooms in many colors, but bright red is best for attracting hummingbirds.
  11. Sunflower: A member of the Helianthus genus, sunflowers are tall annual or perennial flowers with bright yellow petals surrounding yellow or maroon interior disc florets. Birds on long migrations particularly benefit from sunflower seeds as a fuel source.
  12. Zinnia: This long-stemmed, easy-to-grow annual comes in a variety of fun colors and attracts many backyard birds such as goldfinches, hummingbirds, and chickadees.
  13. Berries: Fruiting plants like blackberries, mulberries, raspberries, and blueberries attract fruit-eating birds.

8 Trees and Shrubs to Attract Birds

Planting bird-friendly native trees and shrubs is a great way to entice birds into your backyard. Trees offer nesting sites, attract insects that birds prey on, provide shade in hot weather, and offer shelter from rain.

  1. American cranberrybush viburnum: This shrub's bright red berries provide a colorful backdrop to your yard while simultaneously attracting many types of birds.
  2. Buckeye: Also known as firecracker plant, this small tree or shrub has flashy red flowers that entice hummingbirds and provide shade cover for other birds from early spring through fall.
  3. Crabapple: This type of apple tree thrives in full sun conditions and yields smaller, more bitter fruit than domestic apple trees. Crabapples attract many bird species but are particularly alluring to robins, cedar waxwings, and northern cardinals.
  4. Dogwood: A member of the Cornus genus, dogwood trees have berries that are inedible to humans but attractive to a variety of birds such as titmice, bluebirds, woodpeckers, cardinals, pheasants, and even wild turkeys.
  5. Eastern redbud: This tree's seeds are appealing to goldfinches and chickadees, while the insects that live in its bark provide a meal for woodpeckers and nuthatches. The eastern redbud's pink blossoms also attract hummingbirds and beneficial pollinators.
  6. Elderberry: A member of the Sambucus genus, this shrub yields dark purple berries in late summer that support several bird species, including catbirds, brown thrashers, bluebirds, and red-eye vireos.
  7. Red mulberry: A fruit-bearing deciduous tree, the red mulberry produces mulberries that feed birds like the rose-breasted grosbeak, Baltimore oriole, and scarlet tanager. Its nectar-rich flowers appeal to many insects, in turn attracting insectivorous birds like warblers.
  8. Serviceberry: Appealing to many fruit-eating birds, this tree’s berries attract downy woodpeckers, northern mockingbirds, and brown thrashers.
Ron Finley Teaches Gardening
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Grow your own food with Ron Finley, the self-described "Gangster Gardener." Get the MasterClass All-Access Pass and learn how to cultivate fresh herbs and vegetables, keep your house plants alive, and use compost to make your community - and the world - a better place.

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