Gardening

Winter Berries to Attract Birds

In the heart of winter, when the landscape is blanketed in snow, attracting a diverse array of birds to your backyard can be a challenging task. While bird feeders filled with seeds and suet are common strategies, they are often insufficient. To truly entice a variety of avian species, one must ensure a constant supply of fruit throughout the season.

Bohemian Waxwing. Photo: Eric Bégin.

Birds such as waxwings, cardinals, and grosbeaks are particularly drawn to fruit-bearing trees, shrubs, and vines. These plants not only provide nourishment but also offer shelter from the harsh winter elements. The key is to choose flora that retains its fruit throughout the winter, ensuring a steady food source for these feathered visitors.

Many Options

Among the many options are holly, with its vibrant red berries, and crabapple trees, whose small fruits persist well into the cold months. Mountain ash trees are another excellent choice, bearing clusters of bright orange berries that are irresistible to many birds. Similarly, shrubs like winterberry and viburnum hold onto their berries in winter, providing both food and a splash of color in the snowy landscape.

Vines, too, can be a valuable resource. Varieties such as Virginia creeper offer small, hardy fruits that can withstand winter’s chill.

By incorporating these plants into your landscape, you can transform your backyard into a winter haven for a wide range of birds. Not only will you be supporting local wildlife, but you’ll also enjoy the added benefit of a lively and colorful garden amidst the stark beauty of winter.

Before adding any plant to your garden, it is best to verify if it is potentially invasive in your area.

Familiarize yourself with the common invasive species in your region. You can do this by checking with your local university extension office or website for a list of plants considered invasive in your area.

The invasiveness of a plant can depend on the specific conditions of the area where it’s planted. It’s always a good idea to check with local horticultural group, or natural resources experts when in doubt.

Trees, Shrubs and Vines With Winter Berries

Alternate-leaved dogwood (Cornus alternifolius) – Zone 3

American silverberry (Elaeagnus commutata) – Zone 1b

Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) – Zone 2

Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) – Zone 2

Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) – Zone 4b

Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) – Zone 2

Buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea) – Zone 2

Buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea). Photo: Matt Lavin.

Carrion flower (Smilax herbacea) – Zone 3

Chokeberry (Aronia spp.) – Zone 4

Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster spp.) – Zones 3-9

Crabapple (small-fruited varieties) (Malus spp.) – Zone 3

Edible viburnum (Viburnum edule) – Zone 1

Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) – Zone 4

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) – Zone 3

Highbush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum) – Zone 2

Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) – zone 3b

Ironwood (Ostrya virginiana) – Zone 3

Juniper (Juniperus spp.) – Zone 2-7

Manitoba maple (Acer negundo). Photo: Jovo26.

Manitoba maple (Acer negundo) – Zone 2

Mountain ash (Sorbus americana) – Zone 2

Mountain holly (Nemopanthus mucronatus) – Zone 2

Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) – Zone 2

Ninebark (Physocarpus spp.) – Zone 2

Roses (Rosa spp.) – Zone 2-8

Snowberry (Symphoricarpos spp.) – Zone 2-5

Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) – Zone 3

Sweet gale (Myrica gale) – Zone 2

Virgin’s bower (Clematis virginianus) – Zone 3

Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) – Zone 3

Wild grape (Vitis riparia). Photo: Wasrts.

Wild grape (Vitis riparia) – Zone 3

Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) – Zone 3

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) – Zone 2

Witherod viburnum (Viburnum cassinoides) – Zone 3

This text was first published on this blog in November 2014. It has been revised and the layout updated.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

6 comments on “Winter Berries to Attract Birds

  1. Fantastic site A lot of helpful info here Im sending it to some buddies ans additionally sharing in delicious And naturally thanks on your sweat

  2. Pyracantha, which might be known as firethorn, is the most reliable for berries here. Is it unpopular there? Unfortunately, it attracts turkeys. The berries are pretty while they last.

    • Mathieu Hodgson

      In Quebec, it is used as a houseplant! It has been introduced in nearby Ontario and in British Columbia, though.

  3. Ellen Asherman

    Also bittersweet, a terrible scourge

  4. Dorien Ruijs

    please remove buckthorn and barberry from the list. These are invasive in Canada and create a big problem in natural habitats such as the ravines in Toronto. Thank you!

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