Selecting the Best Evergreens for a Bird Sanctuary

Cute bird on coniferous branchMy Mom and Dad had the best backyard. It not only provided a park-like setting that looked amazing, but it included a variety of trees at differing heights that offered food, shelter and a multitude of nesting opportunities for the plethora of birds that enjoyed that diverse area.

These are the non-deciduous trees my parents planted in our backyard (which do well in most regions of the country):

  • Firs
  • Cedars
  • Hemlocks
  • White pines
  • Green, Black and Blue Spruces
  • Holly

It is always best to consult with your local county extension office, or nursery center to find the best varieties for your region and climate. Your birds are familiar with the natives, and will recognize them more readily than non-natives. Once established, these trees are almost maintenance free. Oh, you might have to trim out the occasional winter-kill branch, or pinch out the centers of the clusters at the ends of the white pine branches to help them grow more densely, but that’s about all.

Evergreens are the most efficient at sheltering your avian friends year round. Their dense foliage remains throughout the year, and repels snow, sleet and rain. Birds can nestle among the branches during the coldest days and nights, and in the wildest windy weather. Snow-covered evergreens not only look pretty, but they provide insulation your birds can use to their benefit.

Inside the pine cones of these evergreens are little seeds coveted by birds like pine siskins and red crossbills. Pines and evergreens in general attract a ton of tasty insects that in turn attract the likes of brown creepers and woodpeckers, to name only a few.

You can let your American Holly trees grow to 40 feet or more, or you can trim them to maintain a beautiful shrub or hedgerow. Be sure to plant at least 4 holly trees so that they will cross pollinate and produce an awesome array of bright red berries for a multitude of birds to enjoy. Holly berries attract catbirds, thrushes, thrashers, robins, blue jays, cedar waxwings, mockingbirds and bluebirds, to name a few.

Every year a robin nests in one of the blue spruces at the front of our property here in the woods. She builds her nest atop branches nestled right next to the center of the tree. Unless you move the branches, her grass and mud abode is nearly impossible to spot. That’s one of the main reasons birds use evergreens for housing their babies. Besides the prickly pine needles, the denseness of the tree makes it difficult for potential predators to reach little nestlings.

In the very top of one of our giant white pine trees there is a platform nest belonging to a red-tailed hawk. That nest has been used for as long as I’ve lived here. Every year I watch as the parents coax their offspring from that lofty aerie. Their first halting, tipsy flights are soon replaced with confident soaring, as they find the thermals across the hilltops.

It’s such an awesome sight to see a hawk riding a thermal. I have enjoyed that sight ever since I can remember. My brothers and I would recline on the warm grassy lawn, watching the clouds and listening to the wind talking in the high tops of the fir trees in my grandparent’s front lawn. On the warmest days we would see the most hawks searching for those swirling spirals of air currents that would carry them higher and higher. We used to wonder what it would be like to fly so high, and then just stretch out our arms and relax on the wind!

Evergreens are a bird’s best friend, and pack a triple punch when it comes to bird-safe habitat, providing food, shelter and nesting materials and sites. These trees appeal to humans as well, because of their textures, and variations in color and height. If you are considering a change to your landscape, I don’t think you can go wrong when it comes to these beautiful and versatile plants.


Connie Smith is the proud owner and manager of Grandma Pearl’s Backporch, LLC, and the expert author of many online articles about easy and unique ways you can create the best bird-friendly habitats to help wild birds survive and thrive. Discover how to create fun and safe backyard habitats for wild birds using their preferred plants and foods, while adding color, fragrance and beauty to your landscape. Find simple how-to projects for making your own unique bird feeders; and learn how easy it is to attract a variety of birds to your yard and gardens. Visit today!

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