Planting to Attract Songbirds
The magical sounds of birds can be pleasing to the ear and relaxing to the soul. In fact, when surveyed, most people voted bird song as their favorite sound, followed by other nature and water sounds. So what can you do to fill the air on your property with bird song? Providing what birds are looking for - water, food, and shelter – will often do the trick. Water is the easiest habitat component to offer. Most small birds prefer sources of fresh, shallow water, with gently sloping sides. Moving, gurgling, or bubbling water is an even bigger hit! Providing the other two habitat components, food and shelter, can be a little trickier because the plant material needs to be carefully selected.
Many birds enjoy a meal of insects, berries, seeds, or fruit. Take a look around your property and start a list of plants (preferably native varieties) that provide foods enjoyed by birds each month. To that natural supply, add more varieties of plants that produce berries or fruit in each season of the year. Plant choices will vary according to where you live in the state, but several of the bird favorites listed below may work in your area for each season.
In the spring, many birds feed on protein-rich insects that are available in abundance as the birds prepare for nesting and raising young. Spring blooming trees and shrubs that entice insects by providing nectar and pollen include many Hawthorn species (Crataegus spp.), mayhaw (Crataegus aestivalis), Mexican and flatwoods plums (Prunus spp.), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), acacias (Acacia spp.), Eastern and Texas redbuds
(Cercis canadensis), agarita (Mahonia trifoliolata), rusty blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum rufidulum), and coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). Many of these plants also produce summer seeds and fruit.
As the spring turns to summer, seeds and berries become more abundant. Good summer seed sources include many wildflowers in the sunflower family, such as Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella), purple coneflower (Echinacea spp.), coreopsis species, black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta) and others. Trees and shrubs that produce summer berries are: Carolina buckthorn (Rhamnus caroliniana), Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), Brasil (Condalia hookeri), Coma (Sideroxylon celastrinum), Granjeno/Spiny hackberry (Celtis pallida), many Sumac species (Rhus spp.), Anaqua (Ehretia anacua), Texas Persimmon (Diospyros texana), Narrowleaf Forestiera/Elbowbush (Forestiera angustifolia), Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus drummondii), Lotebush (Ziziphus obtusifolia), Chile pequin (Capscum annuum), Barbados cherry (Malpighia glabra), Mustang grape (Vitis mustangensis), and more. Many of these produce berries well into the fall.
As fall and winter arrive, plants that offer berries or seeds become
hugely important as resident birds stock-up to survive the colder winter months and as migrating birds pick up food along their way south. In addition to the plants listed
earlier, great fall and winter
plants are: American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), Coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus), Gum Bumelia (Sideroxlylon lanuginosa), Elms (Ulmus spp.), Farkleberry (Vaccinium arboretum), Sugar hackberry (Celtis laevigata), Roughleaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii), Lantana (Lantana spp.), native hibiscus, wax myrtles (Myrica spp.), prairie asters (Aster spp.), and numerous native grass species. The small hollies, Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria) and Possumhaw (Ilex decidua), offer nutritious red berries in the coldest weather.
When it comes to shelter, the primary needs are nesting cover and material in the spring, and shelter from harsh weather in the winter. Native bunch grass clumps provide shelter in the winter, as well as nesting material in the spring. The yaupon, wax myrtle, brasil, granjeno, and other thick evergreen shrubs offer good protection from winter weather and predators.
When you have finished planting, sit back and enjoy the soothing sounds of birds enjoying the sweet fruits of your labor. You won’t regret the time and effort .