(Image credit: Nataba)

Planting fruit or nut-bearing species in the garden can offer food and protective cover for birds and other wildlife for years to come. Picking native trees means that, after the trees and shrubs are established, they require little assistance.

The type of tree or shrub species you select will impact how effective the plants are at aiding wildlife. Read on for some top choices of native trees for birds and other wild creatures. 

Native Trees for Wildlife

Planting windbreaks or individual trees for wildlife is a wonderful way to help local fauna and attract birds and other wild animals to your yard. But when it comes to trees, one size doesn’t fit all. Each wildlife species has particular habitat needs, and you can pick and choose the types of animals you nurture by planting trees and shrubs to benefit them.

For example, if you wish to attract game birds, consider putting in plum trees as a windbreak. If you wish to attract large mammals like deer or elk, install the food source plant near a mature stand of trees to offer them the privacy they seek. 

Native Fruit Trees for Birds

Many gardeners are hoping to attract wild birds to their backyard, both to aid the species and also to enjoy the feathery show. Birds love fruit and most fruit trees will work well for this, but pick native shrubs and fruit trees. It is always the best bet.

One of our very favorite trees for attracting birds is the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), an ornamental with gorgeous flowers in spring and brilliant red berries in autumn. This North American native attracts many bird species, from robins and thrushes to tanagers and grosbeaks, who love the berries and sometimes nest in the branches.

It’s a good idea to install some species that offer overwintering fruit. We suggest crabapples (Malus spp), medium-sized trees lighting up the orchard in spring with bright flowers and fruiting in fall. The small apples please catbirds, cardinals, and finches, among other species, and all appreciate the winter-persistent fruits. 

Fruit Trees for Bees

Fruit trees are also good choices for bees and other pollinators. While some birds may consume the flower buds, most wait for the fruit to appear. Bees and pollinators are looking for flower nectar. That means that the same tree can work well for both bees and birds.

For example, by planting a black cherry tree (Prunus serontina), you would provide an excellent source of pollen for early season bee species. But when the cherries mature, they are food for over 40 species of wild birds. 

Another excellent choice for bees is juneberry (Amelanchier spp.), also called serviceberry, a native shrub offering profuse fruiting in June. It’s an important summer food for songbirds, grows well in sun or part shade, and attracts many bee species in early spring. 

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.