Most valuable native plant for birds

nyssaman(Z6 ON)January 11, 2006

I'm interested in peoples experiences with what they found to be the most relished native plant or tree by birds for food. If anyone has had experiences with eastern towees and tufted titmice Im interested in what they like.. but im also interested in other birds preferences also.

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I have some Tennessee Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea tennesseensis) and the gold finches love the seed in late summer and early fall.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2006 at 7:08AM
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For a berry plant, Serviceberry can't be beat for popularity. Those berries are eaten immediately!

    Bookmark   January 12, 2006 at 7:18AM
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I find the birds in my area love the Russian Olives for eating when ripe in fall and for shelter other times.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2006 at 5:27PM
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nyssaman(Z6 ON)

Gamekeeper Thanks for your input but Im only interested in natives Russian olive although extremely popular with the birds should never be planted as it is extremely invasive and takes the place of "native plants" ( plants occuring here naturally before european settlement). I saw your above post regarding bittersweet and how the birds dont take it if your fruits of the bittersweet are yellow you actually may have asiatic bittersweet commonly sold under the guise that it is native in most nurseries, this would explain why nothing is taking it. If it is the orange berried or native bittersweet what other things do you have around to compliment it ie. cover plants etc and other things that the little birdies relish.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2006 at 1:14PM
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loris(Z6 NJ)

I think much of the reason I get to enjoy catbirds in my yard most summers is Lindera benzoin (spicebush).

The chickadees in my yard love the Tsuga canadensis (Eastern hemlock), but depending on the area, I'd feel I'd have to warn people about wooly adelgid.

At a park near where I work, Myrica pennsylvanica (Northern Bayberry) was the main plant in the best birding spot there until a new building was put on the land.

I looked up towhees and titmice in the book "American Wildlife and Plants: A Guide to Wildlife Food".

Per the book, oak is the most popular for Eastern towhees, and for titmice oak and beech.

I've added the Amazon link to this book below. I think you might find it useful.

Here is a link that might be useful: Amazon link to American Wildlife and Plants: A Guide to Wildlife Food

    Bookmark   January 14, 2006 at 11:13AM
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srj57(z5 MI)

I have a blast every fall watching the robins, catbirds and waxwings feast on my elderberries (Sambucus canadensis). I'll also suggest one of the native sunflowers, though they can be really aggresive.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2006 at 11:09AM
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The titmice love cornus floridas berries they break it open with their beak for the seeds

    Bookmark   January 15, 2006 at 6:24PM
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In regard to the Russian Olive I have had these for over thirty years and they have never spread and the people who introduced me to them have also found the same.Actually the state of NH was at that time encouraging their planting,as was the audobon society.However they aren't for the collector of natives,sorry.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2006 at 2:06PM
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southwebb(z7b GA)

The birds in my area love black cherry, prunus serotina. Unfortunately, the trees are rather messy and are generally attacked by both insects and diseases. I was at a friend's house last summer and they were amazed at the number of birds in their back yard. Little did they know that there was a black cherry in their yard in full fruit attracting the birds. I've seen one source that states black cherries attract over 70 species of birds. The site below list some other good choices.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 19, 2006 at 8:14PM
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We have several black cherry and the birds are crazed for them,they are messy and buggy but I object to the drying the area so drasticly the use so much water in july and august everything near them dies.I am building up mulch to see if it helps.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2006 at 5:05PM
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Really? Maybe that's what killed one of my juniperus virginius. Sarah

    Bookmark   January 20, 2006 at 7:37PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Regarding Russian Olive, A long time ago gov't agencies and wildlife promoters did promote the planting of certain invasive species for wildlife. Of course, at the time they reccomended planting them, they did not know they were invasive.

Since that time, we have learned that they are not a good choice. I am certain if you check with your state DNR and the audobon society today, they no longer recommend planting Russian Olive to attract birds.

As we learn and make mistakes we change philosophies.

As far as best plants for birds, I think a mixture of plants is good choice. Something that they can perch on, something that they can eat and something that provides cover.

Euchinacea is always a good choice. The finches love it. And Hummingbirds hang out on mine also.

I'd like to get a service berry but I don't really have the right sun and soil conditions.

I do have big bluestem and small birds will perch on them.
I also have solidago rigida and the birds get all the seeds off of that before I can get a chance to collect any for seed exchange.
I have virginia creeper which is supposed to be good for birds, but I have never seen any birds on that.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2006 at 10:06AM
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I thought there was a serviceberry for every garden condition, there are so many. I have about 4 different varieties . But to be honest I haven't seen the birds use it as much as the other plants I have . Sarah

    Bookmark   January 21, 2006 at 11:19AM
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loris(Z6 NJ)

I wanted to mention that often with invasive plants, especially those that wildlife eat, the invasive may be occurring far from where the original plant is.

southwebb, I love that site you linked to. For the plants I'm familiar with, it seems very accurate, so it should be a good reference for me going forward.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2006 at 11:53AM
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Good point never considered the birds causing the invasiveness.Being a dogman I get to keep all the dog droppings.Perhaps I should consider replacing my Russian Olive hedge.It will be quite a job!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2006 at 3:40PM
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Before I new any better I planted two rose of sharon plants about 7 years ago. Now I want to take them out and replace them wirh something else. Not sure what though.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2006 at 7:08PM
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When the lanceleaf coreopsis goes to seed, there are clouds of goldfinches that drift up to the sky as I walk through the field.
mulberry is a great food for many critters.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2006 at 8:01PM
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loris(Z6 NJ)

sarahbn, pardon me if you've seen me post this before, but you might want to try UConn's Plant DB's search feature. You can't specify bird attracting there, but can include "Wildlife Value", and specify CT native (it's pretty close to you, you can expand to US native if needed) and then cross reference it to something like the link southwebb posted if needed. I think UConn sometimes but doesn't always mention when birds like the fruit.

gamekeeper, that sounds like a wonderful idea! We've been trying to get rid of some invasives on our property, but I must admit some are probably here to stay for quite a while.

Here is a link that might be useful: UConn Plant DB Plant Search page

    Bookmark   January 24, 2006 at 7:14PM
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AdamM321(MA z5/6)


We pulled out a 100ft shrub border last spring that was overgrown and full of saplings from neighboring maples. What a LOT of work! Dug them out by hand with shovels and a pick ax. Some of them though were so old that they were a little rotted out and they were easy to get out. We started to get a technique going, with some standing on the trunks and rocking them out. Most of them weren't too bad. It took us a while, doing it mostly on weekends, about 3 months. I still have a few non native shrubs around the property and two of those awful maples..I think the Norway that reseed so prolifically. We just don't want to lose the screen. We wouldn't have a tree in our yard just about if we take those out..except for new ones we added. Although the caterpillars were bad last year. Maybe we will get rid of them anyway? [g] The only other shrub we still have that is invasive is the burning bush. I am planning on getting that out later too.

What we added. Serviceberry trees, sambucus, native hydrangeas, lindera, gray dogwood, dogwood tree, ninebark and a few viburnum. Added some compost, native perennials and ferns, and some bulbs in the fall and lots of mulch and can't wait for spring!

The shrubs we installed were small and haven't had any berries to speak of, to see what the birds will like. I hope we will see that this year.

We still have room to add more, and other parts of the yard someday to redo. In the spring I want to add a lot of annuals and perennials that the birds like too. I am planning a whole sunflower corner and a prairie corner with bluestem, joe pye weed, coneflowers, native delphinium and penstemons. Cosmos is another annual that the finches love. I see them swaying on the stems all the time.


    Bookmark   January 26, 2006 at 9:39AM
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AdamM321(MA z5/6)

Sara, I forgot to ask. How did you get a close up photo of the birds in your tree. The birds at our house fly away as soon as anyone comes out the backdoor. Except the chickadees who are very bold.


    Bookmark   January 26, 2006 at 9:40AM
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nyssaman(Z6 ON)

Sarahbn: Your eastern red ceder maybe dying or have died if the forest canopy or a tree has over shadowed it. Red ceder is a tree that will begin to grow in abondened fields it is a first stage forest regrowth tree. Because of this it hates shade and as the forest canopy grows around it it will die.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2006 at 1:02PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Viburnums, dogwoods, wild black cherries - and by the way, WBC is the host/caterpillar tree for many of our most beautiful butterflies, mulberries, wax myrtle (invaluable winter food for migrating birds) various hollies (for same reason) and blueberries are the top plants around here.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2006 at 10:30PM
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We tried Mulberries and didn't have much luck even with a pair for pollination they hard a little fruit at first and then the past two years no fruit at all?

    Bookmark   February 8, 2006 at 10:43AM
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I would recommend viburnum trilobum 'Wentworth'. Has spectacular red berries that hang on the shrub all winter providing interest for you and in the sprng,the cedar waxwings stop by and greedily devour them all. Apparently the fruit needs an extensive freeze/thaw cycle to make them palatable.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2006 at 5:13PM
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Down here, the various hollies (esp. Yaupon and Possumhaw) seem to attract the most birds.
And of course the native sunflowers.

sarabn---I'm trying to think of a native hibiscus or turk's cap that would grow up North to replace your Rose of Sharon and I'm not coming up with anything.
Than again, Rose of Sharon probably isn't a tree in PA, is it?
I suppose a viburnum just wouldn't be the same.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2006 at 8:44AM
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My state bird is the Goldfinch. Around here it's favorite food is thistel.
I let the Mullen grow outside my window so I can watch the birds eat at it all winter.
There are at least 3 kinds of birds that take refuge in the Napweed here.

These are all "bad actors" in my little part of the world and we dont encourage them outside of there home range. [Hades isn't it?]

It just points out the underlying motives involved.
Adaptation is in large part the reason for the number and diversity of birds.
If you offer protection, food and water you will get company sooner or later.
My brother lived in my basement for 10 months!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2006 at 4:45PM
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terryr(z5a IL)

rangdrol, do you mean mullein? That's not native...except to Europe and Asia. I also don't know napweed, so did a search..
napweed (Not sure of spelling) is a noxious weed that grows in parts of the
northwest with a small blue, purple or yellow flower. Napweed secretes a
poison that kills other grasses and small plants allowing it take over large
areas. And is very difficult to get rid of once establish.

Here is a link that might be useful: Verbascum (mullein)

    Bookmark   April 4, 2006 at 10:25PM
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Flowering dogwood tree, elderberry, and blue vervain (verbena hastata).

    Bookmark   July 26, 2006 at 7:35PM
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fglavin(Knoxville, TN)

Toxicodendron radicans is probably one of the most important food sources for birds. If you need any seeds, just let me know!

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 4:50PM
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Western towees love the shelter of a white spruce. Birds make a beeline for that tree when storms are in the area. (Yes, unfortunately, it is a large tree, and not something you plant in a backyard.) Smaller birds are always foraging in the branches. Birds search in any pines with seed cones or nuts. Lodgepole pine is a favorite. Birds also eat wild hazelnuts.

In season (when there is fruit), birds can be found in red-twig dogwood shrubs, dogwood trees (for cedar waxwings and scrubjays), chokecherry, wild cherry, and blueberry shrubs. I would think crabapples would be essential fall-winter food in your area.

Birds move very quickly from food source to food source. This is especially true during migration periods. You'll see them for a couple days as they use up the available seeds, nuts, and fruit, and then they move on.

I'd say plant a variety of trees and shrubs with the objective of providing shelter and/or a food source. And one of the most critical items that people seldom think of ...clean water.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 3:05PM
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knottyceltic(S/W Ontario 5b)

In my gardens I would say it's the Serviceberry bushes (I have SIX) and the Blue Cohosh.


    Bookmark   August 11, 2006 at 1:07PM
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