The Garden Path:Grow your own bird food

Sure, it’s easy to buy
birdseed at the store, but there’s an even easier way to attract birds. In nature, birds eat more than seed;
they eat insects, nuts, and fruit. By planting the right trees and shrubs, you
can provide birds with months of food, and enjoy watching them in your yard.

Start by using native
plants. Plants and animals evolve together in a given area, so native plants
play host to a wide range of insects, birds, and other wildlife. If you fill
your yard with plants native to Asia, Europe, and other areas, these creatures
may not be able to find anything they can eat. A ready supply of insects is
particularly important, because nearly all birds need insects to feed their

By planting a variety of
native trees and shrubs you can provide a year-round food source
for birds. Choose plants that bloom and fruit at different times to help
ensure that food is always available. If there are gaps, you can supplement
with commercial birdseed.

Here are some
good choices:
Downy Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)
is a small shade-tolerant tree that provides food for at least 19 species of
birds, including hairy woodpeckers, rose-breasted grosbeaks, red-eyed vireos,
and scarlet tanagers. This is a great choice for a small yard or woodland edge.

Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) is a large native tree
that produces abundant fruit that is food for at least 47 species of birds,
including northern flickers, red-headed woodpeckers, northern mockingbirds,
rose-breasted grosbeaks, and white-throated sparrows.

White Oak (Quercus alba) is a large native tree
that produces acorns that are an important food for mammals as well as birds,
including flickers, red-headed woodpeckers, and blue jays. It is also a top
insect host, making it doubly valuable to birds. If you’ve got the room, plant

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) is a small native tree
that produces nutritious fruit that is eaten by 36 species of birds, including
6 species of thrush, northern flickers, pileated woodpeckers, summer tanagers,
evening grosbeaks, and pine grosbeaks. Look for new disease-resistant

(Viburnum dentatum, Viburnum trilobum,
Viburnum lentago, and others
) are shrubs that attract many species of
birds, including eastern bluebirds, northern flickers, gray catbirds, cedar
waxwings, and American robins. There are a wide variety of Viburnums, so choose
one you like, just make sure it’s a native.

Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)
is a large shrub that attracts 30 species of birds including: American robins,
eastern bluebirds, scarlet tanagers, eastern and spotted towhees, gray
catbirds, northern mockingbirds, brown thrashers, and northern cardinals. Eat a
few blueberries yourself and then let the birds put on a show.

Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
is a large evergreen tree that attracts many birds including cedar waxwings,
northern mockingbirds, brown thrashers, gray catbirds, American robins, mourning
doves, purple finches, common crows, northern flickers, downy woodpeckers,
evening grosbeaks, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, and eastern bluebirds.

Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) is a deciduous holly
with gorgeous red berries that attract American robins, eastern bluebirds,
cedar waxwings, gray catbirds, brown thrashers, and northern mockingbirds.

Staghorn Sumac(Rhus
typhina, Rhus aromatica, Rhus glabra, Rhus glabra

American robins, eastern
bluebirds, thrushes, gray catbirds, cardinals, chickadees, wild turkeys,
pileated woodpeckers, and others (more than 95 species have been recorded).

Creeper (Parthenocissus
is a climbing
vine that produces fruit eaten by northern mockingbirds, American robins,
eastern bluebirds, thrashers, warblers, plus 35 other species. This vine can be
aggressive, but puts on a tremendous show of fall color. Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is a favorite of
thrushes and at least 13 other bird species. This underutilized native shrub
will take shade as well as sun and is deer resistant, as well as being the host
for the spicebush swallowtail butterfly.American Elder (Sambucus canadensis) is a deciduous shrub that produces
elderberries, which are eaten by at least 33 species of birds. It is a good choice
for providing late-summer food and nesting cover in moist areas.

a native tree that attracts at least 22 species of birds, including pileated
woodpeckers, eastern bluebirds, northern mockingbirds, eastern kingbirds, gray
catbirds, thrashers, and flickers.

more information, contact the Audubon Society, which is headquartered right
here in Pennsylvania:

a gardening question? Ask a Master
Gardener! Contact Penn State
Master Gardeners of Chester County at 610-696-3500 or Please visit Chester County Master
Gardeners on Facebook!

• Nancy Sakaduski is
the Chester County Master Gardener Coordinator. Master Gardeners are
trained volunteers who educate the public on gardening and horticultural
issues. In Chester County, they operate through the Penn State
Cooperative Extension office in West Chester. Nancy lives in Pennsbury
Township. She can be reached at

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About Nancy Sakaduski

Nancy Sakaduski is a Master Gardiner with Penn State Extension of Chester County.



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