Attracting Birds with Fruit Trees and Berry Plants

A Shadbush tree in my garden. A bird food favorite
A Shadbush tree in my garden.

By planting fruit and berry plants you can bring a wider variety of birds to your garden or backyard.

There are many birds that are primarily fruit eaters and they may not visit your seed feeders. A way to draw them into your garden is by providing fruit. But supplying birds with dried fruit is expensive. The least expensive way to provide fruit for birds is to grow native plants which the birds have had thousands of years of experience eating.

Seed Dispersal by Birds

Most trees, and shrubs in North America rely on birds to disperse their seeds. In the eastern deciduous forest, over 300 species of plants rely on birds to disperse their seeds. And 70% of those plants ripen in the fall just in time for migration.

I researched the relationship between birds and fruit and found out very fascinating facts like what color a berry or fruit needs to be to catch a bird’s attention. And when and why most fruit ripens when it does. I’ve written about the relationship between birds, berries, and fruit before.


red berries of American Holly (Ilex opaca). Photo by Donna L. Long.
Red berries of American Holly (Ilex opaca). Photo by Donna L. Long.

Characteristics of Berries Eaten by Birds

Bird swallow seeds whole. And seeds can’t be over three-fifths of an inch in diameter, which is the largest size a seed-eating bird can swallow. By swallowing the seed whole it remains intact and can grow into a plant. Rodents (mice, squirrels) chew seeds and destroy can chance of the seed growing into a plant.

  • size: 5/3 of an inch in diameter
  • color: red or blue, black or white berries (with red, orange, or yellow somewhere on the leaves or stems)


Fruit makes up a large part of the diet of these birds.

  • Mimic Thrushes: Bluebirds
  • Thrushes: Robins, Catbirds, Mockingbirds, Thrashers, and European Starlings
  • Waxwings: Bohemian and Cedar
  • Vireos: White-eyed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, and Yellow-throated
  • Tanagers: Scarlet Tanager
berries of Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) Photo by Donna L. Long.
berries of Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) Photo by Donna L. Long.

Top Fruit Trees for Birds

This list includes the top fruit trees and berry plants favored by birds.

Fruit Plants for the Birds – Top Plants  
Common Name Scientific Name Species of Birds That Eat Fruit
Blackberry Rubus 45
Red Mulberry Morus 40
Elderberry Sambucus species 29
Holly Ilex species 27
Sumac Rhus species 27
Small Trees
Cherry Prunus species 47
Serviceberry (Shadbush) Amelanchier 36
Dogwood Cornus species 31
Hackberry Celtis species 24
Larger Trees
Black Tupelo Nyssa sylvatica 31
Red Cedar Juniperus virginiana 54
Hackberry Celtis species 24
Virginia Creeper Parthenocissus 35
Grapes Vitis species 52



Fall Ripening Berries for Bird Migration

These berries ripen in time for fall migration. The fruits ripen depending on the climate. Berries in cooler climates will ripen before the same plant in a warmer region further south. If a berry ripens in August in New England, the same plant will ripen later in Virginia. This means the birds can eat ripening fall berries as they migrate southward.


American Cranberry bush (Viburnum trilobum)

American Elderberry (Sambucas canadensis)

American Plum (Prunus americana)

Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum)

Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)

Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica)

Common Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana)

Hawthorns (Cratagus species)

Inkberry (Ilex glabra)

Rose (Rosa virginiana)

Sassafras (Sassafrass albidum)

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)


Winter Berries that Attract Birds

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)

Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

Cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)

Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum)

Possum Haw (Ilex decidua)

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)


Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum). Photo by Donna L. Long.
May 16, 2019 Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum). Photo by Donna L. Long.

Berries in My Garden

Many of the native trees and shrubs listed are small and can fit in small backyards or gardens. I have a Shadbush, grapes, highbush blueberries and volunteer mulberries in my garden. When I gather berries to eat, I take just what I need. I leave some for the birds.


For More on Attracting Birds

The Relationship Between Birds, Berries, and Fruit 

Attracting Birds with a Serviceberry

How to Attract Birds to Your Garden

Attracting Cedar Waxwings to Your Backyard



    • Marjorie – Thank you. I’m glad you find the information useful.

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