Designing Bird Habitat in Your Yard

The Arbor Day Foundation approached me about designing several plant combinations that their members and fans could use for plantings of aesthetic interest and which provide function in the landscape. During the next few months, I will be sharing information behind these plant combinations and how they can be used as “do it yourself landscape designs.” All of the plant combinations are available online now. 

Hedgerow Bird Shelter aka the Bird Magnet
When designing the Hedgerow Bird Shelter plant combination two basic goals were desired. 1) To design a planting which would be attractive to birds by way of food and shelter, and 2) provide visual interest for all seasons.

The resulting plant combination accomplishes these goals and will be a great addition to any bird lover’s property. The Hedgerow Bird Shelter offers birds refuge and food and will be a beautiful aesthetic addition to any property.

Included Species:
1 – Washington Hawthorne
3 – American Cranberrybush Viburnum
3 – Arrowwood Viburnum
3 – Winterberry Holly
Hardiness Zone: 4-7
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Space needed: 45’x25’ 


The Hedgerow Bird Shelter begins with the installation of the Washington Hawthorne. Once the Washington Hawthorne is installed the locations for the Winterberry Hollies, American Cranberrybush Viburnums and the Arrowwood Viburnums can be easily determined with a few simple measurements. 

Design Principal:
The Washington Hawthorne has white flowers in early June that will start the color show. Reddish-purple leaves turn dark green, then orange, scarlet or purple. Small, glossy red fruits stay on the tree into winter, and are preferred by songbirds. 

Washington Hawthorn Flowers

The American Cranberrybush Viburnum has excellent fall foliage color which may be yellow, red, orange or burgundy and is just one of the many attributes of this large and attractive native shrub. Showy, snow-white, flat-topped flowers appear in mid to late May. Beginning in September, bright red fruits serve as food for birds and wildlife. 

American Cranberrybush Viburnum Flowers

Arrowwood Viburnum is a multi-stemmed, rounded shrub with creamy white late spring or early summer flowers. Leaves are lustrous, dark green in summer changing to yellow to glossy red and reddish- purple in the fall. Flowers are followed by blue-black berries that ripen in early fall. This shrub provides food, cover, and nesting sites for birds, and larval food for butterflies and moths. 

Aarowwood Viburnum

The Winterberry Holly, has abundant clusters of long lasting, bright red fruits and lustrous, thick, dark green leaves. The leaves fall off the shrub in autumn making the berry display all the more visible in the winter landscape. 

Red Berries on Winterberry Holly

For additional information about Joel and Kersey/Wike Associates, visit


  1. I have fallen in love with this, and it is everything I have wanted for our property line! These are my favorite 4 season shrubs, I’ll be repeating the design 3 times. I can close my eyes and just see how beautiful this will be in the drab cold winter. Our yard has several beautiful white flowering trees already. My question is: would a pink or red dogwood be an equal replacement in zone 6 (for me and the birds)? Normally I’d just switch it out, but I am so inspired by this plan, I don’t want to overlook anything.

  2. I do like the plan except for the viburnums. Eastern Ohio in my location has the viburnum beetle that has destroyed all my viburnums. Is there a similar plant that can replace these for the berries that are edible for birds?

  3. I am professional tree man and am looking for information and pictures of the following trees: (zone 9: Central California [tulare county]); crate mertyl, mulbery (fruit bearing and fruitless), cypress, fire cracker flowering, sego palms, queen palms, reg calif plams, ash, birch, white birch, cottonwood, and verminum (blackish blue beeries on it)
    Thank you for your time and information,

  4. I live in central Ohio. My new home is built into a hill with a run off stream below from which rises a fairly steep embankment up to the road. The level of the road is approx. at the level of my first story. There are many mature tress along the road; white cypress & hickory I beleive. There is little screen to the house as the trees have few lower limbs now.. The shade is fairly dense with an ocean of english ivy as ground cover on the road side bank.

    I want to plant shrubs and small trees in the steep road side bank. We have deer in the area. I want to do some thoughtful groupings rather than just random planting. Any suggestions?

  5. I have fruit and nut trees less pollinated. I also have other trees in a bit of a hill (dumpy spot) but I would like to grow something else than buck thorn in their heavy shade especially under the chestnut. One beautiful Asian type pine with red bark and interesting form. One BIG chestnut, Mulberry type trees I think, but I never see fruit, and tons of buck thorns buck thorns buck thorns and no humus to speak of.

    I need a planting that is pretty and grows in shade and is bit drought tolerant as the light sandy soil gets sucked dry by the trees.
    AND I WANT TO BORROW HONEY BEES. Lots in the area, but they leave my trees alone, They flower but do not set much fruit on apples and chestnuts. Pears do pretty well. so I want honey bee magnets like someone wanted bird magnets. Little bit of luck with raspberries if I heavily compost/manure but i have to remove the buck thorns completely . I think they poison the other plants.

    I liked your bird planting.

    I would also like it if the web site had a button that identified things to plant in the heavy shade, or in a dry slope, or a wet place. It is hard to look through all the trees to find the shade tolerant.

  6. Is there information available that lists the species of birds commonly attracted to specific tree species as a food source (ie fruit/seeds)? It would be very helpful to know before planting a specific tree which specific birds it is likely to attract to better design a bird habitat. Thanks.

  7. Hi Ben,
    I live in Va Beach which is on the border of zones 7 and 8. My back yard is hard clay from about 6 inches down to at least 3 feet. I’ve planted a bunch of Crepe Myrtles and they do fine. There were two bald Cypress planted by the developer and they seem to be doing alright. Other plants that I’ve put in do ok for a year or two and then die. What’s good in clay soil that’s also good for birds. While my wife doesn’t like the idea, I would love to eliminate all the grass in the back yard and just have a maintenance free forest environment.

  8. Can you provide a landscape design to attract birds in zone 9? I have a couple of live oaks in the front yard, but I am looking for a couple of trees that will provide shade and attract birds without the mess of the live oaks, beside the fact that they kill the grass around them. I would really appreciate it.

    Thank you

  9. Editors Note/Bird Habitat Tip:
    These plants have been selected because they provide birds with food, especially in difficult times of the year when food sources are minimal; to increase the number of birds you see; and help add a dependable source of water close by. Birds, like all animals, need water, and by installing something like a bird bath you will see even more birds and provide a better habitat for them.

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