Creating a Bird Garden

Bird Gardening Plant Guide

Elements of a bird garden:
Food—Consider native shrubs, trees and flowers that produce seeds, fruits and nuts throughout the year. Provide nectar producing plants for hummingbirds and butterflies. Allow leaf litter to remain under trees and shrubs, limit dead heading of annual and perennial flowers. Insects are the primary source of food of many birds—eliminate all insecticides.  Supplemental feeders should be offered with seed, suet or nectar.

Water—Birds need a dependable supply of water throughout the year for drinking and bathing. Many bird species that are not attracted to feeding stations are attracted to a reliable water source. Water is most attractive when it is audible and moving. Water sources can include small pools and waterfalls, bird baths, saucers, drippers, and misters.

Shelter—Plant evergreen trees and shrubs that provide year round cover from weather and predators. Deciduous trees and shrubs, brush piles, dead trees and nesting boxes provide additional protection as well as nesting and roosting sites.


More information on each plant can be found at the Missouri Botanical Garden website: missouribotanicalgarden.org

Missouri Native Trees

Botanical/Common Name
Birds Attracted
Plant Appeal
Aesculus pavia/Red Buckeye
Hummingbirds
Seed, Nectar, Shelter, Nesting
Red, narrow-tubular flowers that bloom in spring, (buckeyes) ripen in fall.
Amelanchier arborea/Serviceberry
40+ species, including cardinal dove, robin, catbird, and goldfinch.
Fruit, Shelter, Nesting
White spring flowers, followed by red berries available June to August.
Cornus florida/Flowering Dogwood
90+ species, including sparrows, bluebirds, indigo buntings, cardinals, kingbirds, thrushes and many warblers; other birds hunt for insects in their bark. 
Fruit, Shelter, Nesting
Missouri state tree. White spring flowers, bright red fruits mature in early fall and usually persist until the middle of December.
Crataegus spp. /Hawthorn
39+ species, including black-capped chickadee, mockingbirds,
robins, hermit thrush, waxwings, and purple finch.
Fruit, Shelter, Nesting
Missouri state flower. White spring
Flowers, bright red fruit that persists through winter. Thorny stems-great shelter!
Diospyros virginiana/ Persimmon
Bluebirds, Grackles,  Jays, Mockingbirds, Orioles, Thrashers, Thrushes, Waxwings, Woodpeckers

Fruit, Shelter, Nesting
Distinctive thick, dark gray bark that is broken into rectangular blocks. Yellow spring flowers. Male and female trees needed for fall fruit.


Ilex opaca/American Holly
Waxwings, bluebirds, robins, hermit thrush and mockingbirds enjoy holly fruit.
Fruit, Shelter, Nesting
Male and female trees needed for fall/winter berries.


Juniperus virginiana/Red Cedar
50+ species, including warblers, juncos, sparrows, robins, tree swallows, and waxwing
Seeds, Shelter, Nesting
Native foundation evergreen tree.
Male/female trees needed for fall/winter blue berries (cones).

Liquidambar styraciflua/Sweetgum
Nuthatches, Chickadees, Finches
Seed, Shelter, Nesting
Seed balls have a bad, but are a useful food source for wildlife.
Malus spp. / Crabapple
29+ species, including songbirds, robin, and woodpeckers.
Fruit, Shelter, Nesting
Only North America native apple tree. Deep pink-red flowers in spring. Small, purplish-red fruit in the fall that persist into winter.
Pinus spp./Pines
Pinus echinata/Shortleaf Pine
Pinus strobus/Eastern White Pine
Pinus resinosa/Red Pine
Chickadees, goldfinches, nuthatches, and woodpeckers pick the seeds out of pine cones.
Seed, Shelter, Nesting
Year round evergreen shelter.
Prunus seroting/Black Cherry
84+ species, including, robin, and waxwing.
Fruit, Shelter, Nesting
Fruits ripen in August-September.
Quercus spp. — Red Oak (Black   Jack, Pin Oak, Southern Red); White Oak (Burr Oak, Chinkapin, Swamp White)
60+ species, including brown thrasher, blue jay, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and titmice.
Seed, Shelter, Nesting
Foundation tree; Shade tree



Missouri Native Shrubs

Botanical/Common Name
Birds Attracted
Plant Appeal
Aronia melanocarpa/Black Chokeberry
21+ species, including chickadee, thrasher, waxwing, and meadowlark
Berries, Shelter, Nesting
White spring flowers followed by fall blackish purple, blueberry-sized fruits. Berries are edible, but extremely tart (hence the common name of chokeberry).
Callicarpa americana/Beautyberry
Robins, cardinals, mockingbirds, Bobwhites, bluebirds, cedar waxwings & thrushes
Berries, Shelter, Nesting
Great winter interest shrub. Purple berry-like drupes appear in fall; last  through early winter.
Hamamelis spp. /Witchhazel
Robin, junco, titmouse, cardinal, and many others
Fruit, Shelter, Nesting
Seeds released in September- October.
Ilex verticillata/Winterberry Holly
Waxwings, bluebirds, robins, hermit thrush & mockingbirds enjoy holly fruit.
Berries, Shelter, Nesting
Male and female plants needed for fall red berries.
Lindera benzoin/Spicebush
17+ species, attracts migrants as well as resident birds.
Fruit, Shelter, Nesting
Leaves are the host plant for the Spicebush Swallowtail.


Prunus viriginiana/Common Chokecherry
21+ species, including chickadee, thrasher, waxwing, eastern bluebird and meadowlark.
Fruit, Shelter, Nesting
Fruit ripens September-November and persists into January.
Ribes odoratum/Clove Currant
Ribes aureum/Golden Currant

Berries eaten by robins, thrushes, waxwings, jays, sparrows, woodpeckers.
Fruit, Shelter, Nesting
Golden yellow flowers spring emit a strong, clove-like fragrance. Male and female plants are needed for fruit production.
Rhus spp.
Smooth Sumac, Stagnorn, ‘Gro-Low’ Fragrant Sumac
More than 95 species have been observed eating sumac berries incl. woodpeckers, chickadees and warblers.
Fruit, Shelter, Nesting
Fruit ripens in August –September and persists into spring.
Sambucus canadensis/American Elderberry
 120+ species including woodpeckers, thrasher, finch, waxwing, and warblers
Berries, Shelter, Nesting
Fruit ripens July-September.
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus/Coralberry
Chickadee, robin, and cardinal.
Berries, Shelter, Nesting
Winter interest woodland shrub. Fruit requires several freezes to be palatable. Late emergency winter source.
Viburnum spp.—Viburnum
(Arrowwood, Black Haw, Nannyberry)
Robins, thrushes, waxwings, thrashers, bobwhites, cardinals & bluebirds
Berries, Shelter, Nesting
White spring flowers followed by fall berries.

Missouri Native Grasses

Botanical/Common Name
Birds Attracted
Plant Appeal
Andropogon scoparius/Little Bluestem
Andropogon gerardi/Big Bluestem
Sparrows and juncos, which often perch on the stalks and eat the white seed heads.
Seed, Shelter
Most outstanding feature of this grass may be the bronze-orange fall foliage color.
Sorghastrum nutans/Indian Grass
Several species of songbirds which feed on their abundant seeds
Seed, Shelter
Carex spp./Sedges
Carex stricta/Tussock Sedge
Carex grayi/Globe Sedge

Several species of songbirds which feed on their abundant seeds.
Seed, Shelter
Many sedges grow in dense clumps; creating an excellent nesting cover. Good grass for water/shade gardens.
Panicum virgatum/Switch Grass
Several species of songbirds which feed on their abundant seeds
Seed, Shelter
Pink-tinged, branched flower panicles in mid-summer followed by seed plumes persisting well into winter. Seeds are a food source for birds in winter.
Bouteloua curtipendula
Sideoats Grama Grass
Several species of songbirds which feed on their abundant seeds
Seed, Shelter
Noted for the distinctive arrangement of oat-like seed spikes which hang from only one side of its flowering stems.
Sorghastrum nutans/Indian Grass
Several species of songbirds which feed on their abundant seeds
Seed, Shelter


Missouri Native Perennials

Botanical/Common Name
Birds Attracted
Plant Appeal
Aquilegia canadensis/Columbine   
Hummingbirds
Nectar
Features drooping, bell-like, red and yellow flowers.
Symphyotrichum/Aster
Aromatic Aster, Spreading Aster,
New England Aster
Several species of songbirds which feed on their abundant late season seeds.
Seed
Profuse late summer to fall bloom.
Coreopsis spp.
Coreopsis palmate/Prairie Coreopsis
Coreopsis grandiflora/Large-flowered
Several species of songbirds which feed on their abundant late season seeds
Seed
Tolerant of heat, humidity and drought.

Echinacea purpurea/Purple Coneflower
Echinacea paradoxa/Yellow Coneflower
Echinacea pallida/Pale-purple
Several species of songbirds which feed on their abundant seeds. Favorite of finches.
Seed
Tolerant of drought, heat, humidity and poor soil. Plants usually rebloom without deadheading.
Geranium maculatum/Wild Geranium
Several species of songbirds which feed on their abundant seeds
Seed
Woodland perennial which typically occurs in woods, thickets and shaded roadside areas throughout the State.
Heuchera spp./Coral bells
Several species of songbirds which feed on their abundant seeds
Seed
Attractive foliage and airy flower panicles. Good edging plant. Mass to form an attractive ground cover.
Liatris spicata/Blazing Star
Hummingbirds, several species of songbirds which feed on their abundant seeds
Nectar, Seed
Features spikes of deep purple flower heads. Good plant for perennial borders, native plant gardens, cottage gardens and prairie areas.
Lobelia cardinalis/Cardinal Flower
Hummingbirds
Nectar
Intense red flowers/late summer bloom.
Rosa setigera/Prairie Rose
38+ species including northern cardinal and brown thrasher.
Fruit, Shelter, Nesting
Features deep pink, single (5-petaled) flowers which bloom in late spring to early summer. Red hips in early autumn.
Rudbeckia spp./Black-eyed Susan
Rudbeckia fulgida
Rudbeckia missouriensis
Several species of songbirds which feed on their abundant seeds.
Seed
Prolific bloom production over a long mid-summer to fall bloom period.
Solidago spp./Goldenrod
Several native varieties.
Several species of songbirds which feed on their abundant late season seeds. Finches!
Seed
Profuse late summer to fall bloom.

Missouri Native Vines and Ground Covers

Botanical/Common Name
Birds Attracted
Plant Appeal
Campsis radicans/Trumpet Creeper
Hummingbirds
Nectar, Shelter, Nesting
Woody, clinging vine—can become invasive. Quick cover for fences, trellises, brush piles.


Celastrus scandens/Bittersweet
At least 15 species of birds eat the fruit.
Berries
Twining woody vine that is best known for its showy red berries that brighten up fall and winter landscapes.
Plant male and female plants.
Fragaria vesca/Wild Strawberry
Attracts ground-feeding birds.
Berries
Spring and summer fruit for ground feeding birds. Should be mown annually
Lonicera semperivirens
Trumpet Honeysuckle
Hummingbirds feed on the nectar from the flowers and 
songbirds which eat the small red berries.
Nectar, Berries, Shelter, Nesting
Semi-evergreen climbing vine with salmon-red or orange, trumpet-shaped flowers. Red berries in late summer/fall.
Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Virginia Creeper
35 species including thrushes, woodpeckers and warblers.
Berries
Vigorous tendril-climber that needs no support and typically grows 30-50'.
Crimson-red leaves in autumn; blue/black berries in fall.

Annuals

Botanical/Common Name
Birds Attracted
Plant Appeal
Centanna cyaruis/Bachelor Buttons
Songbirds
Seed
Easy to start outside form seed. Re-seeds freely. Large variety of colors.
Cosmos bipinnatiis/Cosmos
Songbirds
Seed
Easy to start outside form seed. Re-seeds freely. Large variety of colors.
Helianthus anninis/Sunflowers
Favorite seed choice of many birds including: northern cardinal, finches, tufted titmice, jays, chickadees, nuthatches.
Seed
Numerous varieties/colors.
Easy to grow from seed.  Successive plantings provide longer bloom time.
Ipomoea purpurea/Morning Glory
Ipomoea quamoclit/Cardinal Climber
Hummingbirds
Nectar
Easy vines to grow from seed.
Lantana spp./Lantana
Hummingbirds, Songbirds
Seed, Nectar
Nicotinia alata/Flowering Tobacco
Hummingbirds
Nectar
Salvia corciiica/Scarlet Sage
Hummingbirds
Nectar

Verbena spp./Verbena
Hummingbirds
Nectar
Zinnia spp./Zinnia
Hummingbirds, Songbirds
Seed, Nectar
Many colors/varieties.  Easy to start seeds outside after last frost. Tall garden variety attracts most species.


Bird-Feeders:

Set up your feeder in a place where it is easy to see and convenient to refill. Window collisions are often fatal to small birds and feeders should be placed either very close to the window (less than three feet) or much further away (greater than 10 feet). Feeders located about 10-15 feet from a natural shelter such as trees or shrubs offer resting places for birds between feedings and provide a quick escape from predators. Black-oil sunflower seed is the best all-around choice for attracting a wide variety of birds. Finches, chickadees, titmice, cardinals, nuthatches and many other common feeder birds readily consume black-oil sunflower. Safflower isn’t a favorite of every bird (cardinals’ love it!), but if you’re having trouble with non-native starlings at your feeders you might switch to this seed.  Millet is a favorite of many ground feeding birds including sparrows, doves, and juncos.  Corn, either whole or cracked, is attractive to pigeons and doves.  Nyjer or thistle is another common seed that is favored by finches.

Birdhouses:

You can encourage birds to nest in your yard by providing nest boxes.  Many common feeder birds, such as chickadees, titmice, bluebirds and wrens readily nest in manmade birdhouses. Securing the birdhouse to a metal pole or PVC pipe will offer the most protection against predators. Wrens, titmice and chickadees prefer a shaded area with a height of about 5 feet. Bluebird houses should be placed in a more open area at a height of about 3-6 feet. The entryway hole should be shielded from the afternoon sun, so facing any direction except west will be best.


Resources

Local demonstration gardens—Nathanial Greene Park—Botanical Center—Xeriscape

Native plant nurseries
Missouri Wildflower Nursery (Jefferson City)
MDC George O. White State Forest Nursery
Hamilton Native Outpost (hamiltonseed.com)
*Annual native plant sale held at the Nature Center, 1st weekend in April
On-line sites
Missouri Botanical Garden “plant finder”—missouribotanicalgarden.org
Cornell Lab of Ornithology—allaboutbirds.org
National Audubon Society on-line bird guide—audubon.org
Books
MDC free publications—Wildlife Landscaping, Grow Native
Missouri Wild flowers by Edgar Denison
MDC--Tried and True Missouri Native Plants for your Yard
Trees of Missouri Field Guide by Don Kurz
Birds in Missouri by Brad Jacobs
The Audubon Backyard Birdwatcher, Birdfeeders and Bird Gardens
        by Robert Button and Steven W. Kress

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