Guide to Bird-Friendly Gardens

Learn how to plant a garden with native flowers and plants that attract and support local bird and pollinators!

Click Here to download the pdf with more detailed information: Bird Friendly Gardens

Threats to Birds

Though there seem to be a lot of birds in the sky, the majority of bird species are actually in decline. Some are endangered to the point where their numbers may not be sustainable unless conservation efforts are increased. Two of the biggest threats to birds are climate change and habitat destruction.

Climate Change
The science is clear that climate change is the most significant threat to North American birds. Rising temperatures can fundamentally alter where birds can survive. Climate change affects how much food birds can find, where they can survive, and increases the effects of habitat loss. Their natural ranges are already altering due to climate change. According to National Audubon’s 2014 Birds and Climate Change report, 314 North American bird species could lose
half of their current ranges due to rising temperatures.

Habitat Destruction
Habitat destruction is pervasive across the globe, and it poses a major threat to birds. Habitat destruction occurs in three different ways:

  1. Habitat is destroyed when land gets developed.
  2. Habitat also suffers when land becomes fragmented, where it gets divided up by roads
    or other development, and can no longer sustain healthy bird populations.
  3. Finally, habitat can also be destroyed by pollution or invasive species.

Bird Friendly Gardens

Urban areas are typically highly developed and can contribute to bird habitat loss. However, habitat can be restored by planting gardens with bird ­friendly native plants. Gardeners can also further help birds by installing birdbaths and bird houses in their gardens.

Native Plants of Michigan

Many native plants provide nectar for hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Others provide nourishing seeds and irresistible fruits for your feathered neighbors, and they offer places to nest and shelter from harm. They’re also a critical part of the food chain—insects evolved to feed on native plants, and by and large, backyard birds raise their young on insects, explains Douglas Tallamy, the author of Bringing Nature Home. Take the Carolina Chickadee: A single clutch of four to six chicks will gobble up more than 9,000 caterpillars in the 16 days between when they hatch and when they leave the nest. So thriving insects means thriving birds.
Many common Michigan native plant and tree suggestions have been included in this guide from around the web to make your green space bird, bee and butterfly­friendly. For a more complete list of plants visit these websites and

To purchase native plants, visit,

Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.). These beautiful blooms attract butterflies and other pollinators during the summer and provide seeds for goldfinches and other birds in the fall.

Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.). Birds often eat the sunflower seeds to fuel their long migrations.

Milkweed (Asclepias spp.). Milkweed is best known for hosting monarch butterfly caterpillars, but it attracts loads of insects that are great for birds, too. Some birds, like the American goldfinch, use the fiber from the milkweed to spin nests for its chicks.

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis). While few insects can navigate the long tubular flowers, hummingbirds feast on the cardinal flower’s nectar with their elongated beaks.

Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). One of the top most well-behaved vines to plant in your garden, the multitudes of red tubular flowers are magnets for hummingbirds. This vine’s nectar attracts hummingbirds while many birds like Purple Finches and Hermit Thrushes eat their fruit. During migration, Baltimore Orioles get to the
nectar by eating the flowers.

Black­Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta). A popular and easy plant to grow, Black­Eyed Susans attract many birds, including goldfinches, chickadees, cardinals, nuthatches, sparrows, and towhees. Butterflies also like them.

Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum). The plant’s name refers to the tendency of the lower leaves to orient themselves vertically in a north­south direction when exposed to full sun.

Grass­Leaved Goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia). This member of the aster family is enjoyed by butterflies and songbirds, including the goldfinch and swamp sparrow.

Common Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis). An easy­to­grow plant that attracts a variety of pollinators.

Hoary Vervain (Verbena stricta). This plant attracts a variety of pollinating insects, and its seeds are eaten by birds like the cardinal and junco.

Red Columbine (Aq uilegia canadensis). Not only is this flower attractive to hummingbirds and bees, but its seeds and roots have been used to treat several human ailments.

Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa). Bee balm is actually an herb that can be used in tea. It also attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.

Joe­Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum). Named after Joe Pye, a 19th­century naturalist who is said to have used the plant’s roots to heal typhus fever. Joe­pye weed is very popular with butterflies and hummingbirds.

Aster (Aster amellus). Asters are attractive to many birds, including cardinals, chickadees, goldfinches, nuthatches, sparrows, and towhees.

Goldenrod (Solidago). The seeds of this plant will attract birds like finches, yellow­rumped warblers, and pine siskins.

Blazing Stars (Liatris cylindracea). A member of the aster family, this plant attracts various birds and butterflies.

Wild Indigos (Baptisia australis). Wild indigos attract birds, and are natural hosts for many kinds of butterflies.

Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata). The partridge pea is a species of legume that is easy to grow. It supports many kinds of pollinators, and mixes well in a grassland habitat.

Purple Needlegrass (Nassella pulchra). This native grass helps suppress invasive plant species, and its large root system helps prevent soil erosion.

Foxtail (Alopecurus). Foxtail is a grass that helps support grassland birds like red­winged blackbird, bobolinks and meadowlarks.

Switchgrass (Pa nicum virgatum). A tall warm­season grass found in meadows, switchgrass attracts a variety of birds, including pheasants, and provides good cover for them during the winter.

Indiangrass (So rghastrum nutans). Another favorite of pheasants for nesting and winter shelter.

Oak Tree (Quercus spp.) Bur Oak, White Oak and Northern Pin Oak. These trees are an integral part of the food chain. Many species of birds use the cavities and crooks of these trees for nesting and shelter. Birds are also drawn to the abundance of insects and acorns that are found on oaks—to learn more, check out Doug Tallamy’s work at

Dogwoods (Cornus spp.). Red­osier Dogwood, Gray Dogwood. Cardinals, titmice, and bluebirds all dine on the fleshy fruit of dogwood trees.