Want your backyard to be a haven for birds this winter? Fall is a great time to start planning and planting native plants to help birds and wildlife during the tough winter months. When there is little else to eat in the late winter,
Berries just when this Cardinal needs them
birds rely heavily on whatever they can find to sustain them in the harsh temperatures. Native plants that provide berries, nuts and fruit in winter will offer what your local birds need.
But it’s not just the winter birds that will be provided for. Native plants provide food and beauty for you and food and shelter for native wildlife including birds, year round. They also provide a safe haven from predators and can make a beautiful and easy to maintain garden or yard. If you plant a variety of things, each season will provide a new gift of beautiful flowers and new food sources for birds, making your garden a year round bird hotspot!
Vines are a great winter food source
But, just because a plant, bush or tree can survive where you live, doesn’t mean it is native to the area or will provide what birds need to make it through the winter. Plants native to your area are perfectly designed for the resident wildlife, and they are incredibly important to use in your yard.
I know very little about plants, but I knew I wanted to create a food source for birds year round, but especially in the winter. I had no idea where to look for plants that were native to my area, so I started looking online and discovered that there were a lot of organizations who had great suggestions. There are the obvious things to be done like not using pesticides, for example. You won’t really need them if there are enough birds attracted to your garden as they will eat the bugs! And there are a lot of non-toxic and natural ways to control pests of all kinds.
But what I didn’t realize was that a layered garden ,i.e. plants and trees of different sizes, and heights provides different layers for different birds – some nest and feed high, and others on the ground. These kinds of thoughtful plantings will give ground cover for the ground dwellers, as well as nesting sites for birds who use the higher areas of the trees.
So now that I had this information, I wondered where to find those plants that will help birds and are native to my location? I discovered by searching online for my state and “native plants” or even my zip code and “native plants”, there are numerous resources including lists of bird friendly plants and trees for my area and also garden centers which stock them.
As a general idea, here are some plants and shrubs which are known to be particularly good winter food sources for birds. If any of these are native to your area, you can start with these, although there are many more:
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)
White oak (Quercus alba)
Crabapples (Malus species)
Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
Spruces (Picea species)
Northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)
Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)
Winterberry (holly) (Ilex verticillata)
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
More info and plants can be found at Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and there is even an action plan at Audubon