Can you suggest a short shrub that will attract birds?


I am interested in planting a shrub or two in my yard that will attract multiple kinds of birds. I would prefer the shrub to grow no taller than 8 feet in height. My yard has sunny and shady areas. Do you have any suggestions?


Vina Lindley, Food Systems and Home Horticulture Professional

Thank you for reaching out with your question about supporting birds in your yard.  Some things to think about, in addition to environmental factors such as light and shade, would be what type of soil you have, as well as your soil’s moisture level throughout the year. I would recommend a soil test of the area(s) you’re interested in planting in. A soil analysis will help you determine what type(s) of shrubs would be best suited to your conditions, or what you’d need to do to amend the soil to support a particular plant or plants.
In terms of selecting shrubs that will support a variety of birds, I would suggest selecting a species that is native.  A native shrub will be more likely to provide habitat and food to native insects, which will provide needed food resources to birds, particularly their hungry chicks. Native plants are more well adapted to our area and so require less inputs like fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides, all of which can have a harmful impact on birds and other wildlife.   For more information on ways to support birds in your landscape check out Penn State’s publication Gardening for Birds.
As you decide what to plant you might opt for a shrub or shrubs that produce berries, such as American elder, black chokeberry, or winterberry, all provide great food resources for birds.  Choosing plants that produce berries at different times of the year will provide a more continuous supply of food.  A good place to start narrowing down some shrubs that might work for you can be found in our bulletin Gardening to Conserve Maine’s Native Landscape: Plants to Use and Plants to Avoid. Look for the list of native shrubs which provides their environmental needs, height, and growth habit, as well as other notable considerations. Once you have identified shrubs that would meet your needs, you can learn more about individual species from our Go native! bulletins which are listed here.  Each fact sheet includes a section on value to wildlife and often information about how many and which species of birds are supported by the plant. There are many great options to choose from that are sure to support birds in your yard and add to your landscape’s aesthetic value.