Helping Birds: Plant Native Trees

Baltimore Oriole Photo Credit: Deborah Rivel

What better way to be outside, productive, socially distanced and helping birds than gardening!  Spring is here whether or not we are sheltering inside, and now is a great opportunity to make progress on your native plant garden. Being in nature benefits all of us, and  when we are limited in what we can do there is an even bigger need to be part of nature.  Why not do something good for yourself and the wildlife in your yard?

Birds are attracted to the plants and trees which provide them with the food they need – for some that can be seeds or fruit, others nectar.  But one of the main sources of food for many birds is insects. And if you are looking to attract warblers, flycatchers, orioles, most migrating songbirds or any of the birds for which insects are the top item on the menu, start planting those native trees!  Native trees have an extraordinary ability to house many species of insects, caterpillars and moths these birds crave and rely upon.


Make sure you are buying trees native to your area such as redbud, serviceberry, maple, native willows. Ornamental trees are those which are native to somewhere other than where you live. They may look great, but as a food provider for birds outside of their native area, they fail miserably, and as a result won’t be all that effective at enticing birds into your yard.  The other thing that is extremely important is an obvious one – don’t use pesticides or insecticides anywhere on your property! The birds you are attracting are going to naturally keep the insect levels down and using any kind of pesticide, even one which is targeted for a bug you don’t think they will eat, or is sprayed on the grass, is going to affect not only the food supply for the birds you are planting the trees to attract, but also can have a direct negative and long term impact on the birds’ health and their ability to reproduce.

In a successful native plant garden, variety is key – flowers, shrubs and trees – varying heights and densities – all make for a yard and garden that is both beautiful and a habitat that birds and other wildlife can use.   If like most of us, you started with lower and mid-range native plantings, take stock of your trees and see where native trees can fitinto your overall gardening plan. Get more information on which trees to plant and what birds they attract in this article from Audubon.