Shrubs are a key component of effective bird-friendly landscaping, but what makes shrubs so perfect and which shrubs are best for birds?
Why Shrubs Are Great
Whether you call them shrubs, hedges or bushes, these plants are often overlooked but can make some of the best landscaping for birds. Because shrubs are naturally smaller than full-size trees, they are an ideal choice for small yards or to fill spaces where a tree would be too big.
They often grow faster than trees and can help create a mature landscape more quickly, and shrubs often have lower maintenance requirements than more intensive flowerbeds, making them perfect for casual gardeners. Hundreds of birds find different shrubs useful in the backyard, and it is important to add these plants to your landscaping to make it as bird-friendly as possible.
How Shrubs Help Birds
Depending on the exact plant species and which backyard birds are visiting, shrubs are easily capable of meeting all birds' survival needs.
- Food: Not only are shrubs home to insects that birds can feast on, but many shrubs produce berries and fruits that can be critical for backyard birds. Some flowering shrubs produce nectar that hummingbirds and other nectivorous birds will enjoy, and many birds will snack on spring buds. In winter, shrubs with cones provide needed seeds for winter backyard birds.
- Water: Birds that sip nectar from the flowers on shrubs will enjoy the liquid refreshment, and larger shrub leaves will collect small amounts of water that different birds may sip. Birds may even rub against damp leaves for a quick bath.
- Shelter: Dense shrubs provide superb shelter for backyard birds, particularly thorny shrubs that can also deter predators. Shrubs are an important source of summer shade for many birds, and evergreen shrubs are ideal winter shelter as well, especially for ground-loving birds such as quail, grouse and many sparrows.
- Nesting Sites: Many birds nest in shrubs, particularly dense, secure plantings that provide good shelter and protection from neighborhood predators. Ground birds may also position their nests underneath low shrubs.
Best Shrubs for Birds
Different birds like different shrubs and different shrubs will thrive in different areas, but when you use a variety of bushes in your yard, including both deciduous and coniferous shrubs, your landscaping will be undoubtedly bird-friendly. Among the most popular hedges for birdscaping are:
- Wax myrtle
Another great way to choose the best shrubs is to watch birds in the field to see which native plants they prefer. Take several photos of the plant, including shots of the full plant as well as close up views of leaves, fruits or other distinctive features, and a local nursery or gardening center should be able to help you select the same or a similar variety for your yard.
Tips for Adding Bird-Friendly Shrub to Your Landscape
To make the most of all the shrubs for birds in your backyard…
- Choose plant varieties native to your region. Not only will they require less care and be more adapted to your local climate, but birds will recognize them more easily.
- Select plants that will thrive in your yard's soil type, sunlight levels, available water and the type of care you want to give them, such as how often you want to prune each bush.
- Use a diverse selection of shrubs that will grow to different sizes and provide for different birds' needs, but group plants together to provide more extensive cover for backyard birds.
- Choose shrubs that will serve double duty as natural bird feeders by deliberately choosing shrubs with fruits, nuts or seeds birds can eat.
- Place bushes in your landscaping carefully, noting not only their maximum growing height, but also their projected width to ensure they have adequate space to grow.
- Follow planting and care instructions for each plant, and ask your local nursery or gardening center for additional recommendations to be sure each shrub is well cared for.
- Use shrubs to connect other parts of your landscaping, such as between trees and flowerbeds, to provide secure, sheltered corridors birds can use to stay safe in the yard.
- Minimize pruning in order to maximize each plant's usefulness to birds. An extra branch may provide a great perch, a bit of nesting material, or just a little more shelter for birds to use.
Adding bushes and shrubs to your yard is a great way to make your landscaping more bird-friendly, and with the right shrubs, you'll soon see many more birds enjoying your yard.
Want to add the most valuable shrubs to your bird-friendly yard? Opt for berry bushes for birds for the greatest impact!
Photo – Chipping Sparrow © Kurt Bauschardt