gardening for birds

Backyard Birds Love Serviceberry Trees and Shrubs

I always like to tell people that bird feeders and nest boxes will only attract so many kinds of backyard birds. Serviceberry is loved by birds. If you REALLY want to attract a lot more species, add many kinds of plants, trees, shrubs, and flowers to your yard.  (Water also helps a lot, but that’s another post or two!)

One of the best berry-producing trees or shrubs you can plant is serviceberry – which also goes by a number of other names like Juneberry or Shadwood.  Birds love serviceberry because of the succulent berries it produces,  usually in June in areas of the eastern and Midwestern U.S.  The berries not only taste good to birds, they are also liked by people as well.  Serviceberries have a blueberry-like flavor and can be eaten raw or baked into pies, muffins, etc.

Birds that especially like serviceberry include Cedar Waxwings, Robins, Catbirds, Mockingbirds, and Thrashers.  And they seem to know when the berries are going to ripen!  I will see different birds coming by to check out the tree for days before the berries actually start to ripen.  And when they do ripen, you’ll see a never-ending parade of birds stopping by to stock up!  In fact in most years, I never see any ripe berries fallen to the ground.  The birds eat them ALL!

For whatever reason, this year our tree produced far more berries than it ever has.  Even the legions of Waxwings and Robins can’t seem to eat them all, prompting my wife and I to consider harvesting some for ourselves!

Serviceberry comes in upwards of 20 varieties ranging from trees getting up to 60 feet high to low-spreading shrub-types.  The most popular kind is an ornamental tree that is less than 20 feet high.  In mid-spring they produce pretty white blossoms that lead to the succulent berries in June.   One piece of advice is to place the tree a little distance away from areas where you park cars or walk by frequently.  The berries can make a bit of a mess if there are more than the birds can eat.

So, if you want to attract more birds to the yard using plantings, seriously consider adding one or two Serviceberry trees/shrubs.  The birds will put on a show when the berries ripen that will be worth the effort.


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Cornell Lab of Ornithology