Northeast Bird Plants

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As William Cullina mentioned in his article on avian plants, the sad reality is that songbirds are disappearing: “Since 1970, habitat loss, pesticides, and subsequent The decline in insect populations in North America has resulted in a 25% to 30% reduction in North American songbirds.”

But gardeners can help, and only need to buy new plants! By growing more plants that help support local bird populations, you can do your part. Look for bird plants in the northeast below, and find more bird plants in William’s article, Bird in the garden.

1. Serving Raspberry

Serving berries
Photo: Jennifer Benner

name: Ameranchi Canada

area: 4–8

size: 25 to 30 feet high and 15 to 20 feet wide

situation: Full sun to partial shade; moist, well-drained soil

Native range: Eastern North America

If you want to see cedar wax fins in the city center, consider planting some service berry trees. All kinds of Amelanchier are great, and once migratory birds find these trees, they will become visitors to the feast of delicious fruits that ripen early each year (hence another common name, Juneberry). Many birds cherish these berries, while others are attracted by insect larvae that gather on branches and stems; some moths and butterflies rely on serviceberry as a host plant for larvae. Many birds rely on these energy-rich caterpillars as food and feeding chicks during migration. Serviceberries also have abundant early spring flowers (pictured) and beautiful autumn colors, which can make the season more perfect.

2. White Oak

White oak
Photo: Jennifer Benner

name: White oak

area: 3–9

size: 50 to 80 feet high and wide

situation: Plenty of sunlight; extensive well-drained soil

Native range: Eastern North America

Its lack of fruit that attracts birds may make it unusual on this list, but the white oak tree may be the most important and valuable plant for bird watching gardeners. Oak trees and some other selected native trees are the framework of our ecosystem, with hundreds of insects ranging from eggs to adults. These eggs, larvae and adults are essential food for birds, especially during two very important periods-migration and feeding of chicks. In spring, you will find warblers, yellow warblers and various migratory birds on white oak trees. They look for insect larvae on tree trunks and bare branches, and greedily forage after long flights. Afterwards, birds with nests will return to these trees to find more insects to feed the young birds that need protein. This is a solemn tree with excellent autumn colors.

3. Red chokeberry

Red chokeberry
Photo: Jennifer Benner

name: Poplar

area: 4–9

size: 6 to 8 feet high and 3 to 4 feet wide

situation: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil

Native range: Eastern North America

Red chokeberry is a multifunctional, hardy shrub, loved by many birds for its nutrient-rich fruit, which matures late and lasts until winter. This is a passionate sucker shrub in humid conditions. It is unlikely to spread in drier and partly cool places. Its suction cup capability allows it to both resist damage (such as heavy snow) and respond to aggressive pruning. The red chokeberry has a particularly upright habit and can mix well with other shrubs. Although it can grow tall, it can still work in narrow garden spaces. The beautiful flowers in the middle and late spring will turn into a large number of hanging red fruits in the fall. The fruit usually lasts throughout the winter and provides food for thrush, waxwing, and oriole that migrate in spring.

4. Highbush blueberries

Highbush blueberries
Photo: Steve Aitken

name: Bilberry

area: 5–8

size: 6 to 8 feet high and 8 to 12 feet wide

situation: Full sun to partial shade; acidic, moderate to humid, well-drained soil

Native range: Eastern North America

Sometimes it is difficult to find true straight-grown tall blueberries in the nursery, but it is a spectacular plant. It is very ornamental, with drooping spring flowers (pictured) and beautiful autumn colors, and it has become a magnet for birds due to its fruit production. Like all ericaceae plants, blueberries depend on certain fungi in the soil to thrive, so they may not be brought to certain garden locations immediately. Mixing compost, wood chips, and sand—and then covering with wood chips every year or two, while always leaving fallen leaves on the ground—can help a lot. Tallbush blueberries are ideal rain garden plants, but once established, they can be very drought-tolerant, although they can truly thrive under more stable, humid conditions.

David Falk is a horticulturist at the Garden in the Woods in Framingham, Massachusetts, and has worked for the Native Plant Trust for seven years.

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