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Shrubs for Bird

Posted 2/23/2016

Blooms of common chokecherry

Blooms of common chokecherry

My friend Monique asked me to write about shrubs that attract birds. A bird-friendly habitat requires food, water and shelter. Food consists of sap, nectar, pollen, seeds, nuts, berries or fruits. Shrubs should be dense enough to support nests, but also allow birds to move about to escape predators. A diverse plant palette meets a variety of bird needs. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says "Nothing provides an easier or more dependable food supply than ’birdscaping’ your yard with native vegetation." However, the addition of non-native shrubs can provide not only additional food and cover sources, but also add aesthetic appeal.

When selecting shrubs, look for species that are drought-tolerant, unless you have a wet site. Plants used within 30 feet of a structure should be the least flammable possible. This means no junipers in that area for example.

Native shrubs that attract birds:

  • Western serviceberry — Amelanchier alnifolia — berries edible to people too
  • Mountain whitethorn — Ceanothus cordulatus — fragrant flowers also attract bees
  • Curlleaf mountain mahongany — Cercocarpus ledifolius — evergreen, fire hazard
  • Red-osier dogwood — Cornus stolonifera — needs damp soil
  • Mormon tea — Ephedra viridus — extremely drought tolerant
  • Bush oceanspray — Holodiscus dumosus
  • Juniper — Juniperus species — highly flammable
  • Desert peach — Prunus andersonii — thorns, slow grower
  • Bitter cherry — Prunus emarginata — forms thickets
  • Common chokecherry - Prunus virginiana — can be poisonous to livestock
  • Smooth sumac — Rhus glabra — allergenic to people sensitive to poison oak
  • Skunkbush sumac — Rhus trilobata - allergenic to people sensitive to poison oak
  • Golden currant — Ribes aureum — edible fruit for jams, pies
  • Sierra currant — Ribes nevadense — edible fruit
  • Desert gooseberry — Ribes velutinum - edible fruit for jams, pies, thorns
  • Wood’s rose — Rosa woodsii — thorny thicket hard to control
  • Thimbleberry — Rubus parviflorus — high water use, needs a cool site
  • Elderberry — Sambucus species — fruit can be used for wines or jellies if processed properly
  • Common snowberry — Symphoricarpos albus — needs moisture

Ornamental (non-native) shrubs:

  • Barberry — Berberis thunbergii — thorns
  • Butterfly bush — Buddleja davidii — many varieties
  • Flowering quince — Chaenomeles species — one of first shrubs to bloom
  • Cotoneaster - Cotoneaster species — many types
  • Euonymous — Euonymous species — many types and varieties
  • Honeysuckle — Lonicera species — shrubs or vines
  • Oregon grape — Mahonia aquifolium — evergreen
  • Firethorn — Pyracantha hybrids — thorns, colorful berries
  • Roses — Rosa species
  • Lilac — Syringa vulgaris and hybrids — another early bloomer
  • Viburnum - Viburnum species — many types and varieties

For detailed information and growing tips on native shrubs see my publication "Selected Native Shrubs of Northern Nevada — Are They Right for the Home Landscape"

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