Trees for Birds

Planting the right trees for birds as part of a bird-friendly landscape will help attract a wide variety of species to your backyard. Trees are an essential part of bird landscaping, and the right trees can meet all of birds’ needs for food, water, shelter and nesting sites.

How Trees Help Birds

Trees are critical for birds in many ways, and they meet all birds’ basic needs for survival.

  • Food: Trees provide sap, buds, nuts and fruit for birds, as well as hosting insects in bark and leaves.
  • Water: Leaves collect water that small birds can drink, and many birds will rub against wet leaves to bathe.
  • Shelter: Thick branches and leaves provide shelter for birds in all weathers, and many birds roost in trees.
  • Nesting Sites: Many cavity-nesting birds will drill holes in trees to nest, while others build nests on branches.

Because trees are so helpful to birds, adding the appropriate trees to your landscaping will allow you to attract a wider variety of bird species that will see your yard as a sanctuary.

Three Basic Types of Trees for Birds

There are three basic types of trees that can be fantastic parts of any bird landscaping.

  • Deciduous Trees: These broad-leafed trees lose their leaves in the winter, but in spring they are filled with flowers and buds, and many of them produce fruit for birds. In the autumn and winter, the leaf litter from deciduous trees is also a fine source of food for ground-feeding birds, and it also provides nesting material in the spring.The best deciduous trees for birds include larches, mesquites, maples, oaks and willows.
  • Coniferous Trees: These evergreen trees have stiff needle-like leaves that stay on the tree year-round, making them essential for winter shelter for birds, particularly in areas with cold temperatures and heavy snowfall. Many birds will also feed on seeds from the cones of coniferous trees.Popular coniferous trees for birds include firs, cedars, hemlocks, pines and spruces.
  • Fruit Trees: Fruit trees are deciduous trees that deserve special mention because they are so important for birds. The buds are a spring food source, flowers attract insects for birds to feed on and many birds will eat the fruit directly, even if it stays on the tree long past its peak ripeness.The best fruit trees for birds include crabapples, chokecherries, serviceberries, mulberries and hollies.

Tips for Choosing Trees for Birds

Once you understand just how critical trees are for birds, the next step is to choose the best trees not only for your backyard birds, but also for your particular landscape. When choosing trees for birds, remember…

  • Choose trees appropriate for your soil chemistry and regional climate, and native varieties are best. They will grow more quickly, be healthier and be more easily recognized by local birds.
  • Opt for a variety of tree species in all three categories – deciduous, coniferous and fruit – to attract the most birds and provide resources for them all year round.
  • Choose trees that will grow to a variety of heights, shapes and thicknesses to add variety to your bird-friendly landscaping. This will give birds many options to suit their different preferences.
  • When choosing trees at the nursery, select trees that are healthy and well cared for so they can transition well to your yard, and keep them carefully watered and anchored when newly planted.
  • Plan your tree landscaping carefully to also provide shelter or sun to your home for energy savings, and be mindful of overhead wires and underground lines when planting trees.

Planting the right trees for birds can help you give your landscaping a long-lasting source of food, water, shelter and nesting sites for backyard birds, which in turn will attract a greater variety of species to your yard.