Fruit Trees for Birds

Attract Birds With Fruit-Bearing Trees

Cedar Waxwing Eating Fruit
Becky Matusbara/Flickr/CC by 2.0

Bird-friendly landscaping should always include plants that provide natural food for the birds. Choosing fruit trees for birds is an excellent way to augment bird feeders with abundant natural food supplies that will attract an even wider range of birds to your yard.

Birds That Eat Fruit

Dozens of bird species eat fruit, and fruit trees can provide food all year round with sweet sap, tender buds, and ripe fruits. Birds that regularly eat fruit include:

In addition to these frugivorous birds, many other species, including finches and kinglets, will readily sample fruit. Fruit trees also attract insects and caterpillars that will be an important food source for flycatchers, warblers, hummingbirds, and even more bird species.

Trees That Provide Fruit for Birds

A wide variety of trees provide fruit for birds. The most popular fruit-bearing trees for bird friendly-landscaping include:

  • Ash
  • Chokecherry
  • Crabapple
  • Dogwood
  • Hackberry
  • Hawthorn
  • Holly
  • Madrone
  • Magnolia
  • Mulberry
  • Serviceberry
  • Sugarberry

Trees that provide fruit for human consumption are also popular for birds, and many different apple, pear, cherry, peach, apricot, orange, and plum trees will attract birds as well as providing a sweet snack for hungry birders.

Tree Choosing Tips

Just as it is important to choose bird feeders and foods for birds carefully to attract the most species, trees must also be chosen carefully as part of bird-friendly landscaping. When choosing fruit-bearing trees, consider the following:

  • Climate: Choose trees that will grow well in your geographic area and seasonal climate. Native varieties are best because they will thrive with the least care and are more recognizable to local birds. Take temperatures, rainfall, sunlight levels, and season lengths into consideration when thinking about tree climate.
  • Size: If you are planting several fruit trees, opt for trees that will grow to different mature heights. This will provide different feeding layers for the birds and will also provide more shelter to attract birds. Also be sure your yard has enough space for trees to grow to their full size, without crowding that can stunt fruit production or disrupt other landscaping.
  • Soil: Soil condition is critical for healthy trees and lush fruit crops to feed many hungry birds. Choose trees that will thrive in your soil, whether it is dense clay or a looser, sandier composition, or amend the soil adequately to provide the best possible nutrition for healthy trees. Adding mulch and compost around the trees will help keep them in great condition, or you may opt for a regular fertilization schedule to properly nourish trees for better fruit production.
  • Variety: Different bird species have different feeding preferences, and choosing several types of trees with different types of fruit is more likely to attract a greater number of species. Some trees, however, such as apples, need to be planted together in order to produce fruit.
  • Ripening cycle: Opt for trees that ripen at different times of the year so birds will always have a ready supply of natural fruit to sample. Similarly, choose at least a few trees that will retain their fruit into the winter for birds that need extra food when the seasons change, either as they are migrating or for year-round residents.
  • Cultivars: Check with your local landscapers and nurseries to choose specialized cultivars of fruit trees that bear the fruit you wish to have. Not all varieties will have the same types or quantities of fruit. You may even find unique cultivars that will thrive in your area better than heirloom types of fruit trees.

As an additional note, beware of spraying fruit trees with insecticides and pesticides to create a more lush, attractive fruit crop. Those same chemicals that kill bugs can also be toxic, even fatal, to birds. Instead, let the fruit grow and ripen naturally, and birds will also appreciate dining on protein-rich insects.

Regardless of the trees you choose, your backyard birds are sure to appreciate the fruit. Plant the trees in good locations for healthy growth, and avoid raking up or collecting fallen fruit if possible, as birds will feast on the ground as well. With the right tree choices, you can easily offer a natural food source as part of your bird-friendly buffet, and you will see your flock grow and thrive as a result.