Plant a Berry Garden for the Winter Birds

Plant a Berry Garden for the Winter Birds

Plant a Berry Garden for the Winter Birds
Close-up of a small blue and yellow foraging bird sitting on yellow berry tree.

Foraging birds need a diet of heavy-duty foods full of sugars and fats on a regular basis. This is so they can thrive over the cold winter months. Planting a winter berry bird buffet full of shrubs with berries keeps birds happy, healthy, and coming back for more. Plus, as an added benefit, those same plants will help to attract pollinating insects when they flower next spring. Here are several options that produce loads of tasty berries which will have birds flocking to your yard.

Berries are full of sugars, fats, and antioxidants with lots of the calories. Birds need this to survive freezing winter nights.

Best Shrubs with Berries for Birds

Red Sprite Winterberry Holly

About: N. American native with berries that are loved by birds. Abundant berries in deep winter months when food is very scarce. An early-flowering male pollenizer is required for berry set. Partial to full sun. Up to 5' tall and wide. Zones 4-8.

Attracts: Robins, blue jays, eastern bluebirds, red-bellied woodpeckers, grouse, quail.

Oregon Grape Holly

Oregon Grape Holly

About: Brilliant yellow flowers leave behind fat, tart blue-black berries that last into spring. N. American native. Best berry set in pairs. Partial to full sun. Up to 6' tall and wide. Zones 5–9.

Attracts: Robins, waxwings, juncos, towhees, sparrows, grouse, pheasants.

Pink Symphony™ Snowberry

About: N. American native whose wintertime leafless stems are blanketed by bright berries birds adore. Partial to full sun. Up to 4' tall and wide. Zones 3–7.

Attracts: Towhees, thrushes, robins, grosbeaks, waxwings, pine siskins, chickadees.

Sparkler® Arrowwood Viburnum

About: Large, upright N. American native produces loads of fatty (26%), blue-black berries in winter. Partial to full sun. Up to 15' tall and wide. Zones 4–9.

Attracts: Robins, bluebirds, thrushes, vireos, kingbirds, juncos, cardinals, warblers.

Alpine Carpet® Juniper

About: Native to the Rocky Mountains, this evergreen alpine plant produces abundant berries, sheltering dense branches and foliage. This one stays small and compact. Full sun. Up to 8" tall, 36" wide. Zones 3–6.

Attracts: Bluebirds, robins, thrushes, thrashers, warblers,  grosbeaks,  jays, sapsuckers, waxwings, mockingbirds.


Virginia Creeper

About: Dense cover and berries high in fat (40+%) makes this N. American native a favorite for wintering birds. Partial to full sun. Needs space, can climb 30-50' or more. Zones 4–9.

Attracts: Northern flicker, brown thrasher, cedar waxwing, eastern bluebird, Swainson’s thrush, robins, warblers.

Brilliant Red Chokeberry

About: N. American native with bitter fruits that only improve after several freeze thaw cycles in the winter. This makes them a later food source. Partial shade to full sun. Up to 8' tall and wide.  Zones 4–9.

Attracts: Grouse, cedar waxwings, thrushes, northern flickers, and thrashers.


Yellow Twig Dogwood

 About:  The bright yellow stems on the younger growth of this multi-stemmed shrub provide striking winter color while berries provide nutrition for birds. Ideal for naturalizing. Partial to full sun. Up to 8' tall, 9' wide in natural form. Zones 2-8. 

Attracts: Cardinals, Cedar waxwings, American robins, nuthatches, tufted titmouse, dark-eyed junco, sparrows, bluebirds, warblers, and woodpeckers.

Cranberry Cotoneaster

About: Small, pink flowers in spring are followed by large, beautiful red berries that brighten the winter landscape and provide a food source when other berries are scarce. Partial to full sun. Up to 3' tall, 6' wide. Zones 4-7.

Attracts: Rufous-sided towee, American Robin, thrasher, cowbird, and Northern mockingbird

Tips for Attracting Winter Birds

Bird feeding

Where possible, choose plants that are native to your region because birds, such as this Cape May Warbler. Recognize them, and thus spend less energy foraging.

Bird feeding

Provide a variety of trees, shrubs, and vines with natural food sources and shelter. This can double the number of bird species that come to your yard in winter.

  • The best way to bring birds to your yard this winter is to provide for their three major needs: Abundant, regular food, clean water, and shelter from winds and cold. Bird-friendly landscaping includes plants like conifers and evergreens as well as those that provide food.
  • Plant a variety of berry-producing shrubs and vines that provide a variety of fruits at different times. You’ll want something with fruits in the late summer, fall, and early winter.
  • Don’t scrape the yard free of fall debris! Birds appreciate organic materials like seedpods, leaf piles, and fruit that fell from trees. Same goes for your post-holiday Christmas tree which makes a fine place to chill.
Bird in the trees

Get More Information About Habitat-Friendly Gardening

Image Credits: Many thanks to the following for sharing their spectacular work with us.

Cape May Warbler: G. Dewaghe

Myrtle Warbler: Bill Hubick 

Blue bird (lead): iStock Iurii_Au

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2023-10-02 22:39:00