Best Plants for Attracting Birds in the Midwest

These plants native to the Midwest provide abundant food and shelter for birds.
Amelanchier arborea

Birdfeeders bring many birds to my garden, but I like to think that the garden itself gives them plenty of reasons to hang around. Trees and shrubs provide nuts, berries, and shelter, and I grow flowers for their seeds and nectar. I let leaf-litter remain around shrubs to compost slowly; this gives the birds a great place to look for insects. Here are some of my favorite native plants for birds:

Spice bush (Lindera benzoin) grows in full sun or shade; the tiny yellow flowers open in early spring. Thrushes eat the berries in fall.

Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), blooms in early spring and produces a crop of black berries that turn red in June; they taste sweet, but the birds are likely to beat you to them; great fall foliage.

Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) is a native grass that grows about 3 feet tall, and great for sunny spots in a shrub border. Small birds love the tufted, cottony seeds.

American cranberry bush (Viburnum trilobum) is a handsome large shrub that grows to about 6 feet; it makes a good screen. Loads of red berries in fall sometimes persist into winter.