Thanks everyone who tuned in to watch our live talk. In case you missed it (either because I did not post in the right place, you don’t have FB, or you were out enjoying the sunshine today) you can watch our Gardening for the Birds talk here! 

Gardening for the birds talk starting now!

Posted by The Growing Place Garden Center on Saturday, April 18, 2020

List of plants that Jack talked about today and a few more for good measure.

Trees – provide food (with insects and/or berries) and shelter

  • Oaks (Quercus)
  • Maples (Acer)
  • Apple/Crabapples (Malus)
  • Pagoda Dogwoods (Cornus)

Shrubs – Provide food (with insects and/or berries) and shelter

  • Serviceberries (Amelanchier)
  • Viburnums (Viburnums)

Evergreens -provide shelter

  • Junipers (Juniperus)
  • Arborvitae (Thuja)

Grasses -provide seeds and shelter

  • Big Bluestem (Andropogon)
  • Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium)       
  • Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus)
  • Indian Grass (Sorghastrum)

Perennials – provide seeds and nectar

  • Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
  • Sunflower (Helianthus)
  • Coneflowers (Echinacea)
  • Cup Plants (Silphium)
  • Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium)

Vines – provide great shelter

  • Dutchman’s Pipevine (Aristolochia)
  • Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus)
  • Grape (Vitis)


We also have a “Bees, Birds, Butterflies, & Bats in Your Garden” handout available if you would like to pick up a copy when you shop the drive-thru in Aurora. Below is an excerpt to help you get started.

Gardening for the Birds

The best way to attract birds to your yard is to offer them something they need but can’t find elsewhere like food and water sources or evergreens and other cover.

Providing Food Sources

  • Choose a variety of vegetation. Plants that attract a variety of insects, Evergreens with cones, Grasses and grains for seed-eating birds, Berries, Fruits that bear in different seasons, Trees that bear acorns and nuts
  • Place plants so you can see birds from your windows. Most birds like to nest between 5’- 8’ from the ground. Place feeders and birdbaths close to shrubs so that they can dart for protection.
  • Improve a wooded site to create an edge habitat. Cut a clearing to allow more sun for shrubs. Allow these areas to develop naturally or add to them with desirable shrubs. Pruning is not necessary. Dark corners where nothing will grow will accumulate leaves. Let them compost naturally to attract thrushes, towhees, and fox sparrows
  • Garden planting. Open areas attract most songbirds, i.e. goldfinches, bobwhites, robins, cardinals, and chickadees. To increase the number and variety of birds, build shrub borders and add varied habitats. Flowers beds in large, sunny areas provide nectar and insects for warblers, hummingbirds and many more. Perennial flower seed-heads attract doves, finches, sparrows and other seed-eaters

Providing Water Sources

  • Birds need water daily. Both from the food they eat and from surface sources.
  • Water is tremendously important on hot summer days and when surface sources are frozen.
  • Clear, fresh water is extremely attractive and birds can fly miles to get it
  • Birds are attracted to the sound of running water from fountains.
  • Place birdbaths near cover but not close enough that predators can hide.

Providing Cover and Shelter

  • Vines on the ground, low growing shrubs, and perennials provide cover for forest floor birds like thrushes, towhees and juncos.
  • Walls and fences provide protection for nests
  • Plant evergreens of various heights
  • Plant trees. Plan groupings in natural, irregular spacing to mimic woodlands.
  • A good mix of different plants in close proximity are most attractive to birds.
  • To attract a variety of birds it is necessary to have a wide range of plant material.
  • Different Birds Need Different Things
  • Insects: most nesting birds look for insects and caterpillars to feed their young
  • Treetop feeders: vireos and tanagers
  • Top of trees and shrubs for small insects: wood warblers, kinglets and bushtits.
  • Tree bark: nuthatches, creepers and woodpeckers 
  • Scratching under shrubs: towhees and juncos
  • Grasses, perennials and weedy areas: sparrows and juncos
  • Berries and Caterpillars: bluebirds, waxwings, thrushes and catbirds
  • Tough shelled tree seeds, sunflowers and ragweed: cardinals and grosbeaks
  • Varied diets: jays, crows and blackbirds

Common Birds to Our Area

  • Blue Jays: forest edges; fruit and nuts. Prefer tray feeders or hopper feeders on a post rather than hanging feeders. Prefer peanuts, sunflower seeds and suet or dried fruit. Oak trees provide desired acorns. They will visit birdbaths.
  • Cardinals: favors sunflower seeds, especially. Prefers undergrowth and brush for nesting.
  • Cedar Waxwings: love fruit. Plant native trees and shrubs that bear small fruits, such as crabapples, dogwood, serviceberry, cedar, juniper, hawthorn and winterberry.
  • Chickadees: prefer nest boxes fill with sawdust or wood shavings. To keep wrens out of boxes, place nest boxes into a tree or at least 40 feet into a wooded area. Chickadees prefer an unobstructed path to the entrance hole, without branches and leaves in the way. Setting a nest box farther back from other trees and branches can help deter squirrels and mice from jumping to the box and eating chickadee eggs and nestlings.
  • Finches: plant native thistles and other daisy-like flowers, as well as native milkweed. Almost any kinds of bird feeders attract goldfinches, including hopper, platform and hanging feeders. These birds don’t mind feeders that sway in the wind. Goldfinches will feed on the ground below feeders, eating spilled seeds. They love sunflower seed and niger/thistle seed.
  • Gray Catbird: plant shrubs in areas of your yard near young deciduous trees for shelter and nesting. Catbirds also love fruit, so you can entice them with plantings of native fruit-bearing trees and shrubs such as dogwood, winterberry and serviceberry.
  • Hummingbirds: Red-colored flowers dominate the list but there are plenty of other colors to allow a varied planting. The most important aspect of designing a hummingbird garden is to plan for continuous bloom from spring to fall, with bloom times that overlap to ensure an endless supply of nectar. Hummingbirds have to eat a great deal of nectar to maintain energy levels. Plant flowers in abundance. Tubular flowers hold more nectar and butterflies like them too! Do not use pesticides. Prefer nectar but will also eat insects.
  • Junco: prefer evergreens and partially wooded areas. Ground feeders, they look for fallen seeds.
  • Red-winged Blackbird: prefer perennial beds, open meadow or tall grasses. Love sunflower and mixed seeds.
  • Robins: prefer shrubby flower gardens with fruits, berries and insects or worms. Small fruiting trees such as serviceberry and crabapples are favorites.
  • Thrushes: prefer woodland settings. Distinct lyrical song.
  • Tufted Titmouse: Tufted titmouse are regulars at backyard bird feeders, especially in winter. They prefer sunflower seeds but will eat suet, peanuts and other seeds. They build their nests in cavities, so putting up nest boxes is a good way to attract breeding titmice to your yard.
  • Woodpeckers: prefer insects. In the backyard they like suet feeders, but are also fond of black oil sunflower seeds, millet, peanuts, and chunky peanut butter. Occasionally, downy woodpeckers will drink from oriole and hummingbird feeders as well.