The Surprising Winter Plants Backyard Birds Absolutely Love

Turns out, your feathered friends are big fans of evergreens.

January 10, 2017
bird eating a juniper berry
Annette Shaff/ Shutterstock

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 backyard birds absolutely love them! Here’s why, and which varieties to consider planting come spring. 

They’re An Ideal Shelter

When birds roost or nest in the dense heart of evergreens, 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.


Related: How To Protect Your Evergreens In Winter

They’re Pretty Tasty, Too

Beyond shelter, having a variety of broad-leaved and needled evergreens in your yard provides a great snack for birds throughout the year.

In spring, rhododendrons (which are one of these 51 plants that don't need a lot of sun to thrive) 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. Fall is also when holly berries appear, a fruit that robins, bluebirds, mockingbirds, thrushes, and starlings find hard to resist. 

Pinecones and the cones of spruce, fir, hemlock, and other conifers are packed with nutritious seeds that draw grosbeaks, crossbills, titmice, and pine siskins. And the petite, seed-filled cones of hemlocks attract small seed-eaters like chickadees, juncos, and goldfinches.


Related: 7 Things Backyard Birds Want From You

Choosing Evergreens For Your Garden

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 to add color to your winter landscape—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.