February is National Bird Feeding Month

Which plants are useful for attracting birds? Listed below are my top ten favorite trees and shrubs that produce berries for birds ~ and because birds have color vision, choosing plants with red berries is like having “bird magnets” in the garden. REMEMBER: some berries that are edible for birds, can be toxic to humans. 

Above, left to right: Pyracantha; Crabapple ‘Indian Summer’; Crabapple ‘Prairie Fire’; American Beautyberry; European Cranberry Bush ‘Chicago Lustre’; Red Chokeberry; Linden Viburnum ‘Michael Dodge’; Linden Viburnum ‘Cardinal Candy’; Weeping Yaupon Holly; Hawthorn.


Red fruit appears in autumn, but persists through winter in milder climates, especially if trained against a wall as an espalier. Mockingbirds, cedar waxwings and cardinals feast on the pyracantha berries. This robust evergreen shrub is suitable for full sun.


These berries lure waxwings, thrushes, cardinals, finches, and blackbirds into the garden and provide a reliable source of food in late Autumn. Two Cotoneasters from the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit include: C. ‘Rothschildianus’ (white berries), and C. x waterer ‘John Waterer’ (masses of scarlet berries). The berries should not be ingested by humans. (Summer flowers also attract bees and provide a valuable source of nectar when other sources of food may be scarce.)

Crabapple (Malus 'Indian Summer' and 'Prairie Fire') 

Cedar waxwings, robins and woodpeckers love the berries on Crabapples. Some varieties, like ‘Prairiefire’ and ‘Indian Summer’ have persistent fruits, in that the berries will not drop once they have ripened, but remain on the branches for the birds to eat. 

Wax Myrtle, Southern Bay Berry (Myrica cerifera)

This shrub is best suited to a wildlife habitat. In harsh winters, the berries are an important source of food for mockingbirds, Carolina wrens, and cardinals, although more than 40 species of birds will eat the berries. Thousands of berries cover the branches in winter. The berries only form on female plants (just like hollies) and provide a good source of fat and fiber for birds. Wax Myrtles also provide shelter for birds.

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

A woodland garden shrub with purple berries that appear in clusters along the stems in late summer through fall. A favorite food for robins, mockingbirds, cardinals, finches and towhees. It makes a beautiful shady hedge when massed under trees, while also providing a good cover for birds.  

European Cranberry Bush (Viburnum opulus ‘Chicago Lustre’ - pictured)

An attractive, deciduous woodland garden shrub, particularly suitable to hot, humid climates. After flowering, this shrub is massed with blue berries that are quickly consumed by birds, including bullfinches and mistle thrushes.

Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia

Cedar waxwings, brown thrashers and chickadees are fond of the berries produced on this deciduous shrub which grows well in the woodland garden, under cover of other hardwood trees. Drought resistant once established, this large shrub has the added bonus of spectacular fall leaf color. 

Weeping Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria)

An upright, weeping evergreen tree, producing berries for a number of birds, including the norther flicker, cedar waxwing, eastern bluebird, robin, mockingbird, and many others. 

Linden Viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum ‘Michael Dodge’ and ‘Cardinal Candy’)

This large deciduous landscape shrub produces a plethora of berries for cedar waxwings, cardinals, eastern bluebirds, and more. Its broad structure also provides a protective shelter for birds. ‘Michael Dodge’ has bright orange berries, and ‘Cardinal Candy’ has bright red berries.

Hawthorn or Thornapple (Crataegus viridis ‘Winter King’) 

The fruit on this small ornamental tree resembles that of the crabapple. The winter berries attract birds including grosbeak, robin, waxwing and the purple finch.