Berry Producing Shrubs for Over-Wintering Birds

Photo by hegtor

This year my 4H Wildlife Project group is going to certify my yard as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat. While I have everything necessary to become certified (food, water, cover, and a place to raise young) in my wildlife garden, I would really like to add more native berry producing plants to help over-wintering birds thrive through the cold months.

Photo by Dendroica cerulea

Winter berry-producing shrubs in the wildlife garden help fill in as sustenance when the other food sources such as plants-gone-to-seed are long gone. Even birds that are predominantly insect eaters such as waxwings, robins, bluebirds, chickadees and many more, will switch their diet in the winter to berries in order to survive lean months.

Photo by Pellea

Wildlife gardeners can help by planting shrubs that produce winter berries – and of course, the best shrubs are the ones that are local natives. Look for plant natives such as like viburnums, American Beautyberries, hackberries, hollies, sumacs, and bayberry bushes.

Photo by Tambako the Jaguar

If you plant holly bushes in your wildlife garden, don’t forget that you’ll need both a male and female shrub to produce berries. Unless, of course, you purchase a female holly and there’s a male in the vicinity.

What plants do you have in your beautiful wildlife garden that provides winter food for wildlife?

Chris McLaughlin’s suburban farm and beautiful wildlife garden is located in Northern California (zone 9). Check out her blog A Suburban Farmer

© 2010 – 2013, Chris McLaughlin. All rights reserved. This article is the property of We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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  1. says

    River oats is a native grass with great seed-heads that I’m trying out this year. Ducks and wild turkeys apparently really like it (although I don’t expect to see either in my yard…still, you never know!) but it’s more broadly attractive to grain eating birds in winter, and forms clumps that make great winter cover for wildlife. (Also useful as an erosion stabilizer! It slices! It dices! It’s a digital watch…!)

    We’ll see if it performs as advertised–the seed heads are VERY pretty at the moment, if nothing else.
    UrsulaV recently posted..Crap- it’s winter

  2. Susan says

    I have poison ivy. ;-) I have read that it provides food for many animals. I am working on planting more native shrubs and getting rid of the non-native invasives that have colonized our 10 acres here in Michigan: Autumn Olive and Buckthorn mostly in our woods.

  3. says

    I’m a big fan of Ilex verticillata, the berries seem to hang on and be unattractive to wildlife until very late winter here in Zone 7. I guess they take that long to ripen fully, but it’s nice to have a berry food source so late in the barren season.

  4. says

    Viburnums provide fruit, flowers and fall color, some are fragrant. Birds will eventually eat Chokeberries, but usually not until January. Echinacea, Rudbekia, Hyssop and ornamental grasses all provide food in the form a seeds in winter. False Grape/Boston ivy provides berries that the birds eat and in summer provide cover. They also have good fall color. Feeders also help get birds through the winter until the trees and grass appear.


  1. […] Chris is a prolific author and farmer living in northern California. Chris was part of the original team then took a hiatus to finish yet another book, and returned to us for a monthly post. Check out her timely post Berry Producing Shrubs for Overwintering Birds. […]

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