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Natural Habitat Gardening: Growing Food For Wildlife - Berries and Seeds

To create a natural habitat garden, you need to include plants that provide food for the wildlife that live in your area. Growing plants that provide berries and seeds attracts a wide variety of wildlife and the plants are pretty easy to find. I’m guessing you currently have some of the plants growing on your property.

The following native trees provide seeds for turkeys, grouse, small mammals, and songbirds.

  • Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
  • Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
  • Box Elder (Acer negundo)
  • River Birch (Betula nigra)
  • White Pine (Pinus strobus)

We have turkeys that stroll through our property. I enjoy their company. They are quite comical to watch as they bob and weave and strut around the place.  

The following native perennials plants produce seeds that provide food to migrating birds and birds that stay all year, including cardinals, goldfinches, sparrows, chickadees, nuthatches, towhees, mourning doves, and finches.

  • Asters (Aster)
  • Coreopsis (Coreopsis)
  • Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea)
  • Joe-pye Weeds (Eupatorium maculatum) 
  • Sunflowers (Helianthus)
  • Blazing Stars (Liatris)
  • Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia)
  • Prairie Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum)
  • Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum)
  • Goldenrods (Solidago)
  • Ironweed (Vernonia missurica)
  • Big Bluestems (Andropogon gerardii) 
  • Little Bluestems (Schizachyrium scoparium)

The important thing to remember when growing perennials is to NOT deadhead the flower heads. Leave the dead flower heads on the plants through fall and winter to feed the local and migrating birds.

Berries are also an important food source for birds and other wildlife all year.


The birds that over winter in an area feed mostly on berries. A great bush to add to your landscape is Bayberry or Sweet Gale (Myrica gale). The leaves often survive into late winter providing shelter to birds and the berries are a great source of food.


Come spring, Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), Red-Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea), and Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum) provide berries for hungry wildlife. These early ripening berries are a welcome food source for the wildlife that stayed the winter, for the early migratory birds, and for those mammals that are waking up from hibernation.


Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) produces dark purple berries in the summer and early autumn. The berries are eaten by over 50 species of songbirds, along with wild turkey and ruffed grouse.


Maple Leaf Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) and Arrowhead Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) provide berries to migratory birds just when they need the energy to fly south. Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is another shrub you should consider adding your garden since the red berries are very popular with birds along with raccoons and opossum.