Winter Plants That Birds Love

Adapted from Attracting Birds to Your Backyard

By Sally Roth

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When you think of evergreens, you probably picture familiar needled shrubs and trees like junipers and pines, but evergreens also include broad-leaved plants that keep their leaves in winter, like hollies and rhododendrons, and even groundcovers like some cotoneasters. When birds roost or nest in the dense heart of evergreens like these, they're protected from wind, rain, and snow. Raccoons and other night stalkers will think twice before they go after sleeping birds surrounded by the prickly evergreen branches.

Choosing Evergreens
Broad-leaved and needled evergreens provide all-season bird foods. In spring, rhododendrons and azaleas are smothered in pink, orange, or white nectar-filled flowers that attract hummingbirds. The sugary blossoms draw thousands of small insects, which in turn attract wood warblers, phoebes, and other insect-eating birds. In late summer and fall, the blue berries of junipers are popular with cedar waxwings and other fruit eaters. Robins and bluebirds can't resist holly berries, and neither can mockingbirds, thrushes, and starlings. Pinecones and the cones of spruce, fir, hemlock, and other conifers are packed with nutritious seeds that draw grosbeaks, crossbills, titmice, and pine siskins. The petite, seed-filled cones of hemlocks attract small seed eaters like chickadees, juncos, and goldfinches.

When you choose evergreens for your garden, remember that they're not all green, and they're not all the same shape or size. Take advantage of the diversity of evergreens—try combining tall, columnar plants like cedars with rounded shrubs like yews, and then carpet the ground around them with spreading junipers. For added interest, combine needled evergreens in a variety of colors, such as gold, burgundy, and blue-green, with broad-leaved evergreens, such as hollies and rhododendrons.

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