Berry Bushes Your Birds Will Love

When planning your landscaping to attract birds, every plant should be as useful as possible in as many ways as possible. Berry bushes are ideal, since they can provide not only food but also water, shelter and nesting sites – meeting all of birds' survival needs in a single plant. But which berries are right for your yard?

Birds That Use Berry Bushes

Many different birds happily munch on berries – from waxwings, vireos and thrushes to quail, grouse, orioles, finches, jays, and more. Grosbeaks, tanagers, titmice and wrens have also been known to snack on berries. But even birds that don't always eat berries can make great use of berry bushes in different ways.

  • Shelter: A dense berry bush, especially with thorns or thick foliage, is protective shelter for birds on the ground as well as birds that perch on its branches. This can be especially handy if a predator is nearby, and a thick bush can conceal small birds from hunting hawks or cats.
  • Nesting Sites: Many birds nest in dense bushes, including hummingbirds. If the bush is only minimally pruned it will provide even better cover for nesting birds. Any bird that makes a cup-shaped or hanging nest may choose a berry bush to become home, and ground-nesting birds like grouse and quail may be quite comfortable under a dense bush.
  • Food: Even if birds don't eat berries, they may still find food in the bush. The sugary berries often attract a wide variety of insects that birds will eat, including caterpillars, spiders and many different gnats or smaller bugs. The moist soil under a low berry bush may also be great for worms and snails. At the same time, insect-loving birds do a great job of providing pest control to keep the berry bushes healthy.
  • Water: Birds that eat the berries from a healthy, thriving bush often don't need to seek out as many extra water sources for drinking. Instead, the plump, juicy berries provide good moisture. When the foliage is damp, birds may rub on it for a quick bath, or if the leaves are broad enough to collect water, birds may drink from those small pools.

Best Berries to Add to Your Yard

There are many different berry bushes available to add to your landscaping, but not all of them are equally suitable for birds. Before choosing plants, consider which berries will thrive in your yard based on…

  • Soil: What quality is your soil, and what nutrition will it offer plants?
  • Sunlight: How many hours of sunlight will a bush get in your yard?
  • Climate: Which berries are most suited to your local weather?
  • Moisture: Do you need supplemental watering to assist a berry bush?
  • Space: Do you have the proper space for the plant's mature size?
  • Mess: Can you position the bush so walkways aren't covered in berry stains?

Depending on your yard and what your landscaping needs may be, there are many berries birds won't be able to resist, including…

  • Bayberry
  • Beautyberry
  • Blackberry
  • Currant
  • Elderberry
  • Hackberry
  • Hawthorn
  • Holly
  • Juniper
  • Serviceberry
  • Sumac
  • Viburnum

Another great way to choose the best berry bushes is to watch what local birds love. Visit a nature reserve, botanical garden or park and watch what berry bushes are bird feeding frenzies. Take a photo of the bush or note its description, and ask a local nursery about the plant so you can add it to your yard.

Make the Most of Every Berry

To be sure every berry bush you plant is doing as much as possible to help the birds…

  • Opt for native varieties whenever possible, since they will be more recognizable to birds and will thrive more easily in your climate and soil.
  • Choose several berry varieties that have different fruit-producing times so there is always a sweet supply of food for birds to enjoy.
  • Pay close attention to the plants' watering needs so the berries will be plump and tasty, attracting a greater number of hungry birds.
  • Avoid pruning berry bushes in autumn, just when migrating birds will need the treat the most. Also, choose berries that stay on the bush through the winter, so resident birds can feast.

Berry bushes are a great option to add to your bird-friendly landscape, and you'll be amazed at how many birds are at their berry-loving best when you add this natural food, water and shelter to your yard.

Image by DeniMix from Pixabay

Melissa Mayntz

About Melissa Mayntz

Melissa Mayntz is a birder and a writer, naturally writing about birds. Her work has appeared with The Spruce, Farmers' Almanac, National Wildlife Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest and other publications. She is the author of Migration: Exploring the Remarkable Journeys of Birds (Quadrille Publishing, 2020), and is transforming her suburban backyard into prime bird habitat. Be Your Own Birder.