Attracting songbirds to your Garden

Trees & shrubs that attract birds

By: Sandy Feather ©2011
Penn State Extension

Q. Do you have specific plant recommendations for plants and shrubbery to attract songbirds and desirable birds, but not nuisance birds such as crows and starlings? We would like to add some plants to our yard that attract songbirds.

A: Loss of habitat is one of the biggest factors in the decline of songbird populations. While Pennsylvania remains a very forested, rural state in many ways, our natural areas are fragmented by development that is not as bird-friendly. In addition, many natural areas have a greatly reduced shrub layer due to over-browsing by deer. Many songbirds do not inhabit the overstory of large trees, but depend on large shrubs and small trees for food and shelter.

Songbird Plant Varieties

Incorporating a variety of native trees and shrubs that provide food and shelter is one of the best ways for home gardeners to help restore larger corridors of habitat most helpful to songbird populations. A variety of plants that provide food in all seasons is most helpful, including trees, shrubs, vines and even herbaceous perennials. Evergreen trees and shrubs are important for cover and nesting sites, and the cones of conifers are an important food source for many species.

The following list is far from complete, but it serves as a good starting point. I have limited it to plants suitable for an average suburban yard, although many would work well in small city lots, too. Plants that produce messy fruit (mulberry, persimmons) or that sucker aggressively (staghorn sumac) have also been omitted. They would be fine for very large yards, but would quickly wear out their welcome where space is limited.


Large Trees (60 – 100 feet)

American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)

Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)

Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) *

Eastern Hemlock
Eastern Hemlock

Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) *

Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)

Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica)

Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) *

Small Trees (20 – 35 feet)

Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.)

Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Flowering Dogwood
Flowering Dogwood 'Cornus florida' with fall color

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.)

American Holly (Ilex opaca) *

Crabapple (Malus spp.)

American Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana)


Gray Dogwood (Cornus racemosa)

Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea)

Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata)

‘Grey Owl’ Juniper (Juniperus virginiana ‘Grey Owl’)*

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

Saltspray Rose (Rosa rugosa)

Blackberry, Raspberry (Rubus spp.)

American Elderberry (Sambucus niger ssp. canadensis)

Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.)

Ripe blueberries
Ripe blueberries

Mapleleaf Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium)

Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum)

Possumhaw Viburnum (Viburnum nudum)

American Cranberrybush Viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. americanum)

Blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium)

Herbaceous Plants

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) - perennial

Tickseed (Coreopsis spp.) – annual and perennial species

Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) - annual

Coneflower (Echinacea spp., Rudbeckia spp.) – annual and perennial species


Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) - annual

Zinnia (Zinnia elegans) - annual

   * Denotes evergreen plant


Hillside Plantings

Books for Gardeners

Hummingbird flower favorites


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