Everyone loves the calls and sights of songbirds this time of year. They're a cheery reminder of spring and a delight with all their activity. But due to habitat loss, climate change, and other factors, the populations of many song birds are declining. One way to help is to plant the right shrubs for birds.
While the obvious choice would be fruiting shrubs, there are other factors to consider. Each landscape should have shrubs that help birds in a variety of ways. Certainly food is important. Fruiting shrubs such as shrub dogwoods, elderberries, and blueberries provide energy for birds. But also these and many other native shrubs harbor caterpillars that are a prime food source for baby birds. Harboring lots of caterpillars may be more important than berry producing.
Birds also need water. A safe and easy way to make sure young birds have access to water is to plant broadleaf evergreens, such as mountain laurel and rhododendrons, in your yard. When it rains small cups of water accumulate on the leaves making it easy for small birds to hide and drink.
That also brings us to shelter. Birds need sheltered and protected places to nest, hide when feeding, and to avoid predators. Evergreens, such as hemlock and junipers provide this critical role. Informal hedges of evergreens or deciduous shrubs, such as viburnums and hazelnuts, are perfect shelters from predators and a good food source.
So, when purchasing new shrubs for your yard this spring, think about the birds and try to buy native shrubs that will be beautiful and produce food and shelter for our winged friends.