It’s for the Birds: Favorite Native Plants for Sun and Shade

A bird-friendly landscape should fulfill all of a bird’s basic needs, including food, shelter, water and nesting. Native plants are favored because birds recognize them for insect and seed food sources, and rely on them for protection and cover that matches their nesting habits.

It’s not necessary to have a huge dedicated area — even a few of the right plants can be beneficial and will attract visitors. And remember, in order to support fall migrants and winter birds, leave the seedheads intact and let your natives stand through the winter.

While one could argue that any native plant could be listed as bird-attracting, here are some of our favorite bird-friendly plants and a few of their uses in attracting birds to your yard. Prairie Nursery also offers pre-designed songbird and hummingbird gardens.

Jacob’s Ladder Insect source Stiff Goldenrod Insect source
Sweet Joe Pye Weed Insect source Cupplant Water, nectar, insects, seeds
Zigzag Goldenrod Insect source Pale Purple Coneflower Seed, insect source
Wild Blue Phlox Nectar source Downy Sunflower Seed, insect source
Anise Scented Goldenrod Insect source Showy Goldenrod Seed, insect source
Solomon’s Seal Berry, nectar source Little Bluestem Nest site and material, seeds
Wild Geranium Nectar, insect source Ironweed Insect, seed source
Woodland Sunflower Seed, insect source Fireweed Nectar source
Heart Leaved Aster Seed, nesting, cover, insects Butterflyweed Insect source
Wild Columbine Nectar source Meadow Blazingstar Nectar, insects, seed source

Creating Bird Habitat – 7 Basic Landscape Qualities that Attract Birds

Native Plants. Native plants are the basis of an avian-supporting environment. Birds recognize them for insect and seed food sources, and rely on them for protection and cover matches their nesting habits.

Layered Vegetation. Some birds forage on the ground for food, while others find food in low shrubbery. Some birds nest in grasses, while others nest in trees. Even the same bird species will frequently use different heights and layers of vegetation for feeding, roosting and nesting.

Dense Plants. Dense areas of vegetation shield smaller birds from hawks, cats or other predators. It is also more suitable for roosting and nesting, which can make your backyard birds permanent residents instead of transient guests. One long, narrow bed filled with the right plants is more suitable than small, widely scattered beds.

Plant Diversity. When choosing a range of plants, consider the seasons during which each plant is most useful. Early flowering plants attract insects and provide nectar during the spring, while those with seeds or nuts are essential sources of food in late summer and fall.

Mess is Best. Leaf litter, long grass and discarded brush piles are highly attractive to birds because they are rich sources of insects, nesting material and shelter. Always let your native plants go to seed in the fall and stand through the winter. Birds will eat the seed, and you’ll save money on birdseed.

Water. Birds need water for bathing and drinking. Even puddles where rainwater accumulates can attract birds. If you have clay soil, you can dig shallow holes that will fill with rainwater and drain slowly. Add a birdbath or water feature anyway you can.

Bird-Friendly Garden Care. Minimize pesticide use and let the bugs be a rich bird food source instead. Choose natural and organic fertilizers that will not harm birds.