- Wild Ones
- Wild Chapters
Unless otherwise noted, these species are native to most or
all of Wisconsin. Native ranges are based on maps given on the
University of Wisconsin Herbarium website. Native plants and source lists of native plants are often
available at local nature centers and native plant nurseries. The
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Bureau of Endangered
Resources, offers a list, updated yearly, of Wisconsin native
plant nurseries, seed suppliers and consultants.
BEST NATIVE TREES - To maximize
diversity, try to have trees from each group below.
- Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) - At least 47 species eat
the fruit, including Red-headed Woodpecker, Northern
Flicker, Northern Mockingbird, Rose-breasted Grosbeak,
and White-throated Sparrow.
- Pin Cherry, Wild Red Cherry (Prunus pennsylvanica) -
Fruit attracts Eastern Bluebird, among others.
- Red Mulberry (Morus rubra), southern Wisconsin - 44
species eat its fruits, including cuckoos and tanagers.
- American Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana) - Fruit eaten by
at least 14 species, including Cedar Waxwing, Brown
Thrasher, Eastern Bluebird, Gray Catbird, and grosbeaks.
- Showy Mountain Ash (Sorbus decora), a handsome tree -
Fruit also enjoyed by birds.
- Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), primarily southern
Wisconsin - 24 species eat the fruit; particularly liked
by Northern Flicker, Northern Mockingbird, Swainson's
Thrush and Northern Cardinal.
- Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), primarily
southern Wisconsin - 54 species have been noted eating
the fruit, including Cedar Waxwing, Northern Mockingbird,
Brown Thrasher, and Gray Catbird.
- Hawthorns : Cockspur Hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli) ,
southeastern Wisconsin; Downy Hawthorn (C. mollis) and
Dotted Hawthorn (C. punctata) - Hawthorns can attract
more than 20 species and are especially favored by Cedar
Waxwing, Fox Sparrow and Ruffed Grouse. Also, they offer
great cover and protection for nesting, due to their
- Maples: Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), Red Maple (A.
rubrum), Box Elder (A. negundo), and Silver Maple (A.
- American Larch or Tamarack (Larix laricina)
- Birches: Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera), Yellow Birch (B.
lutea), River Birch (B. nigra). The last is native only
to the Wisconsin and Mississippi River valleys - Seeds
are a favorite of Pine Siskins, and Fox and American Tree
- Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginia), primarily
- Eastern Arborvitae or White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis),
primarily northern and eastern Wisconsin
- White Spruce (Picea glauca), primarily northern Wisconsin
- Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), primarily northern
and central Wisconsin
- Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)
- Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)
- Oaks: White Oak (Quercus alba), Bur Oak (Q. macrocarpa)
and Northern Red Oak (Q. rubra)
- Ashes: White Ash (Fraxinus americana) and Green Ash (F.
- Willows: Two natives for our area include Peach-leaved
Willow (Salix amygdaloides) and Black Willow (S. nigra).
- White Oak (Quercus alba) - Acorns eaten by Northern
Flicker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Blue Jays, and others.
- Bur Oak (Q. macrocarpa) - Acorns are a favorite food of
the Wood Duck.
- Northern Red Oak (Q. rubra) - Acorns eaten by many birds.
BEST WISCONSIN NATIVE SHRUBS FOR ATTRACTING BIRDS
- Serviceberries: There are a number of native species,
including Juneberry (Amelanchier laevis), Dwarf
Serviceberry (A. spicata;stolonifera) and Downy
Serviceberry (A. arborea) -The last is known to attract
at least 19 species that eat its fruit.
- Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) - The tart fruit attracts
at least 43 species, including bluebirds.
- Blackberries/Raspberries (Rubus sp.): Red Raspberry (R.
idaeus; strigosus), Blackcap Raspberry (R. occidentalis),and
Highbush Blackberry (R. allegheniensis) - At least 63
species eat their fruit.
- American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) - At least 33
species eat its fruit, including Red-bellied and Red-headed
Woodpeckers, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin and
- Currants/Gooseberries (Ribes spp.): Choose native species
like Wild Black Currant (R. americanum), Missouri
Gooseberry (R. Missouriense) and Prickly Gooseberry (R.
cynosbati) - The berries are eaten by at least 16 species
- Canadian Buffalo Berry (Shepherdia canadensis), native
along Lakes Michigan and Superior.
- Blueberries (Vaccinium sp.), Low-bush blueberry (V.
angustifolium), Canada Blueberry (V. Myrtilloides).
Dogwoods (Cornus spp.):
- Pagoda Dogwood (C. alternifolia) - Fruits eaten by at
least 34 species, including Downy Woodpecker, Brown
Thrasher, Wood Thrush, Eastern Bluebird, and Cedar
- Red-Osier Dogwood (C. stolonifera) - Fruits eaten by at
least 18 species, including Gray Catbird and Wild Turkey.
- Silky Dogwood (C. amomum) - At least 18 species feed on
- Gray Dogwood (C. racemosa) - Its fruit is consumed by at
least 17 species, including Northern Flicker, Downy
Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal, and Eastern Bluebird.
Viburnums (Viburnum spp.):
- Nannyberry (V. lentago) - Among birds feeding on its
fruit are Gray Catbird, American Robin, Eastern Bluebird,
and Cedar Waxwing.
- Downy Arrowwood (V. Rafinesquianum)
- Winterberry, (Ilex verticillata ) - Fruits eaten by
songbirds, winter waterfowl, and upland game birds.
Sumacs (Rhus spp.):
- Smooth Sumac (R. glabra) - At least 3l species eat the
fruits, especially the Gray Catbird, Wood Thrush,and
- Staghorn Sumac (R.. hirta; typhina) - 21 species eat the
fruit , including Red-eyed Vireo and American Robin.
Roses (Rosa spp.). Get native species that don't need
pesticides and fertilizers:
- Swamp Rose (R. palustris) - Its rose hips are eaten by at
least 20 species and are preferred by Swainson's Thrush and Cedar Waxwing.
- Pasture Rose (R. carolina)
- Meadow Rose (R. blanda)
- Prairie Wild Rose (R. arkansana) - At least 38 species
feed on its hips, including Northern Cardinal and Brown
Shrubs for Nests
- Speckled Alder (Alnus incana subsp.rugosa); Green Alder (A.
viridis), latter is primarily in northern Wisconsin.
- American Elderberry (Sambucas canadensis)
- Roses (Rosa spp.): Swamp Rose (R. palustris), Pasture
Rose (R. carolina), Meadow Rose (R. blanda)
- Willows (Salix spp.): Pussy Willow (S. discolor), Prairie
Willow (S. humilis), Beaked Willow (S. bebbiana)
- Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)
Shrubs for Shelter
- Common Juniper (Juniperus communis), Southern half of
Wisconsin. - Eastern Bluebird, Cedar Waxwing, and Purple
Finch eat the berries.
Shrubs for Seeds
- Speckled Alder (Alnus incana subsp. rugosa); Green Alder
(A. viridis), latter is primarily in northern Wisconsin.
BEST WISCONSIN NATIVE VINES FOR ATTRACTING BIRDS
Vines for Berries All provide fall and
- American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) - At least 15
species of birds eat the berries.
- Poison Ivy (Rhus radicans) - At least 55 species of birds
eat the fruits.
- Greenbriar (Smilax hispida); also, Carrion-flowers ( S.
ecirrhata and S. herbacea)
- Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and Grape
Woodbine (P. vitacea) - Favorite berries of at least 35
species, including thrushes, woodpeckers, vireos, and
Grapes (Vitis spp.):
- Riverbank Grape (V. riparia ;vulpina) - 52 species eat
these grapes; the preferred food of 24.
- Pigeon Grape (V. aestivalis), primarily southern half of
Vines for Shelter and Nesting
- Greenbriar (Smilax hispida)
- Grapes (Vitis sp) - See above under berries.
Best Vine for Hummingbirds
- Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
BEST WISCONSIN WILDFLOWERS FOR BIRDS
- Asters (Aster spp.). Range varies for different species,
but asters are found throughout Wisconsin - Seeds eaten
by cardinals, goldfinches, sparrows, chickadees,
nuthatches, towhees, Indigo Buntings.
- Coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.), mainly southern half of
- Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.), mainly southern one-fourth
- Joe-pye Weeds (Eupatorium spp.), south of Tension Zone,
which bisects Wisconsin from northwest to southeast.
- Wild Strawberry (Fragaria spp.) - Fruits attract
53 species of birds, including Northern Flicker,
Wood Thrush, Cedar Waxwing, Eastern Towhee, American
Robin, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher and Rose-breasted
- Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.), range varies for different
species, but sunflowers are found throughout Wisconsin -
Seeds loved by Mourning Doves, blackbirds, chickadees,
finches, meadowlarks, sparrows, and White- breasted
- Blazing Stars (Liatris spp.), range varies for different
species, but Blazing Stars are found throughout Wisconsin.
- Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta, R. laciniata.) -Favorite
of finches; also liked by chickadees, cardinals,
sparrows, nuthatches, and towhees.
- Prairie Dock, Compass Plant, and other Silphiums (Silphium
spp.), southern half of Wisconsin -Loved by finches.
- Goldenrods (Solidago spp.). Many wonderful natives
throughout Wisconsin, but avoid Canada Goldenrod (S.
canadensis), which is extremely aggressive and will crowd
out most other wildflowers -Loved by finches.
- Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis), primarily south of
Tension Zone, which bisects Wisconsin from northwest to
BEST WISCONSIN WILDFLOWERS FOR HUMMINGBIRDS
- Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
- Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
- Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)
- Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
- Turk's Cap Lily (Lilium superbum) and Wood Lily (L.
- Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
- Lupine (Lupinus perennis), mainly south of Tension Zone
which bisects Wisconsin from NW -SE.
- Penstemon (Penstemon grandiflorus, P. digitalis),
southern two-thirds of Wisconsin.
- Phlox (Phlox divaricata, P. pilosa)
BEST WISCONSIN NATIVE GRASSES FOR BIRDS
- Bluestems (Andropogon spp.) - Seeds of the Big and Little
Bluestem are eaten by small birds in winter, including
juncos and sparrows.
- Other native prairie and woodland grasses also have seeds
that are probably eaten by birds, but specific
information is unavailable.
WORST WISCONSIN INVASIVE PLANTS - Be
sure to eliminate these from your birdscaped yard.
- Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
- Tartarian Honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica)
- Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
- Reed Canary Grass (Phalaris arundinacea)
- Crown Vetch (Coronilla varia)
- Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) and Glossy
Buckthorn (Rhamnus Frangula)
- White Sweet Clover (Melilotus alba) and Yellow Sweet
Clover (Melilotus alba)
- Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense)
- Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)
- Musk or Nodding Thistle (Carduus nutans)
Adams, George, 1980. Birdscaping Your Garden. Rodale Press. N.Y.
Excellent in advocating only native plant species for birdscaping.
Cockrane, T. and Hugh H. Iltis. 2000. Atlas of the Wisconsin
Prairie and Savanna Flora, Technical Bulletin No., 191. Wisconsin
Department of Natural Resources. Madison, WI. Maps for each
Heintzelman, Donald. S. 200l. The Complete Backyard
Birdwatcher's Home Companion. Ragged Mountain Press. Camden,
Maine. Excellent book, covering many aspects of backyard
birdwatching, in addition to landscaping for birds.
Hightshoe, Gary. 1998. Native Trees, Shrubs and Vines for
Urban and Rural America. Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York. Detailed
profiles of native species, including excellent information on
Kress, Stephen W. 1995. The Bird Garden . Houghton Mifflin.
Boston. Good, except for its recommendation of the extremely
invasive buckthorns and honeysuckles that we're trying to
eliminate!! In subsequent articles, he has advised against these
Martin, A.C., H. S. Zim and A.L Nelson. 1951. American
Wildlife and Plants, A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits. Dover
Publications. N.Y. Specific information on the plants birds eat.
Stokes, Donald and Lillian.1998. Bird Gardening Book. Little
Brown. Boston. Excellent in overall coverage.
Salwey, M.K., J.L. Hutchens, T.L.Peterson, K. Kearns, T. Marty.
1998. So What Should I Plant? Trees, Shrubs and Vines with
Wildlife Values. Publication, WM-223-98. Bureau of Wildlife
Management, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison,
WI. Excellent coverage of recommended native plants for Wisconsin
that are valuable for both birds and other animals.
Zickefoose, Julie. 2001. The Bird-Friendly Backyard, Natural
Gardening for Birds. Rodale Press. Emmaus, PA. An excellent book,
giving a wealth of details on landscaping for birds.
Nowak, Mariette.2007. Birdscaping in the Midwest. Itchy Cat Press. Blue Mounds, WI. Excellent guide to gardening with native birds to attract birds.
Tallamy, Douglas W. 2007, Bringing Nature Home. Timber Press, Inc. Portland, Oregon. A compelling argument for the use of native plants in gardens and landscapes.
Mariette Nowak, 2011