Top 10 Trees and Shrubs With Berries for Birds

Tasty fruits dangling from open branches entice birds, like cedar waxwings and American robins. Check out the best bird berries you should grow.

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Berries are an irresistible treat for birds, particularly in winter when food is scarce. The fruits produced by these trees and shrubs provide calories and crucial nutrients that your favorite songbirds need, especially during the cold months when other natural food sources are nonexistent or buried in the snow. Check out our picks for trees and shrubs with bird berries that your backyard feathered friends can’t resist!

photo credit: Fast-Growing-Trees

1. Eastern Red Cedar

Juniperus virginiana, Zones 2 to 9

Size: 40 to 50 feet tall, 8 to 20 feet wide

Eastern red cedar and cedar waxwings form a marriage made in bird heaven. Several species adore the blue-gray fruits that resemble bird berries but are actually cones made of fused scales. 

It may be tempting to grow several trees in a large group, but keep eastern red cedar away from apple and crabapple trees. A fungus known as cedar apple rust thrives when both apples and red cedars are present.

Why we love it: The pyramid shape provides dense nesting and roosting cover for many birds, including sparrows, robins, mockingbirds, juncos and warblers. Birds use the bark for nest material.

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red elf firethorn, bird berriesVia Monrovia

2. Firethorn

Pyracantha coccinea, Zones 5 to 8

Size: 6 to 18 feet tall and wide

Woody plant expert Michael Dirr says it best: “For fruit display in the winter garden, few plants rival pyracanthas.” Birds flock to the clusters of orange to red fruits (technically called pomes, not berries) and may appear intoxicated when fruits are overripe.

Why we love it: Firethorns adapt to most conditions. Choose one that is resistant to fire blight. Learn about the top 10 tree diseases (and what to do about them).

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robin in winterberryCourtesy Francis Hoefer

3. Winterberry

Ilex verticillata, Zones 3 to 9

Size: 6 to 15 feet tall and wide, but varies by species

Songbirds, waterfowl and game birds love the fruits of this common holly, especially in late winter when food is scarce. Winterberry grows best in full sun and tolerates wet soil in spring and drought in summer. 

Why we love it: Crimson bird berries add color to the winter landscape. Plant in groups for major impact. 

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Discover more simple tips to attract winter birds.

bird berriesVia McKay Nursery

4. American Cranberrybush

Viburnum trilobum, Zones 2 to 7

Size: 8 to 12 feet tall and wide

Viburnums populate a huge family of plants in a wide range of sizes and habits, each with white clusters of spring flowers that form red, blue or black fruits. American cranberrybush viburnum is among the best for its handsome rusty-red fall color and use in multiples as a deciduous hedge. 

Why we love it: Few pest problems. Plus, fruit persists well into winter.

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bird berriesVia Proven Winners

5. Chokeberry

Aronia, Zones 3 to 9

Size: 6 to 10 feet tall and wide, but varies by species

Chokeberry shrubs produce red or black bird berries that are low in fat and protein, so birds wait until the more desirable foods are gone to gobble them up. These tough native plants display lovely fall color.

Why we love it: You may end up battling the birds in order to glean the berries, which are high in antioxidants but require sweeteners to make them palatable to humans.

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cedar waxwings eating crabapplesCourtesy Christine Darnell

6. Crabapple

Malus, Zones 4 to 8

Size: Up to 25 feet tall and wide

Crabapples come in a range of sizes and shapes. All produce small apples of varying sizes and colors that remain as hard as marbles until freeze-thaw cycles make them appealing to birds. Oddly, birds tend to avoid the fruits of Adams, Donald Wyman and Red Jewel but gorge on most of the rest.

Why we love it: Lovely spring blooms of white, pink and almost red. 

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bird berries, northern flickersCourtesy P. Brian Machanic

7. Serviceberry

Amelanchier, Zones 3 to 9

Size: May reach 25 feet tall

Hard-working and airy, serviceberries grow as trees or multi-stemmed shrubs. Plant a species that is suited to your region to attract birds and other wildlife. The blooms, foliage and bark stand out when grown against a dark background, like the one evergreens provide.

Why we love it: Four-season interest! From spring blooms to summer fruits to fall color to beautiful winter bark, serviceberry shines. 

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bird berries, cedar waxwing in hawthorne treeCourtesy Margee Cooper

8. Hawthorn

Crataegus, Zones 3 to 8

Size: Up to 30 feet tall and wide

Providing good cover for many birds, hawthorns also produce scarlet bird berries that hang on nearly all winter. Thorns up to 3 inches long are both a liability and an asset, so try thornless cockspur, Crataegus crusgalli var. inermis.

Why we love it: Hawthorns tolerate drought, grow in almost any kind of soil and produce fall color. Discover the best fall shrubs to grow.

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elderberryVia Proven Winners

9. Elderberry

Sambucus, Zones 3 to 9

Size: 12 feet tall and wide

This luxurious shrub features long, arching branches. In early summer, it produces flat white flower clusters that turn into purple bird berries by late summer. The fruit is relished by gray catbirds, robins, bluebirds and many other songbirds.

Why we love it: Butterflies love the showy, fragrant blooms!

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catbird on beautyberry shrubCourtesy Peter Brannon

10. Beautyberry

Callicarpa, Zones 5 to 8

Size: 3 to 8 feet tall and wide

Tiny spring flowers produce clusters of magenta, purple or white bird berries that remain on these spreading shrubs after the leaves drop. The fruits become a good food source for many species, including mockingbirds, robins, towhees and brown thrashers.

Why we love it: It’s so easy to grow—volunteers and seeds dropped by birds may spread quickly.

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More Trees and Shrubs With Bird Berries

bird berriesCourtesy Holli Pruhsmeier
Cedar waxwing in a blackberry thicket

Birds & Blooms readers offer up their top picks for fruit-filled trees and shrubs to attract birds and wildlife.

“My husband planted a row of 15 elderberry plants, intending to harvest the berries. We quickly realized the birds loved them and decided to let them feast on the bounty.” – Mary Orr

“I focus on native plants, including weeping yaupon holly and serviceberry.” – Lyn Cosby

Beautyberry is a new favorite of mine. I’m happy to have a variety that will survive our cold winters in upstate New York.” – Karen Hance

“My birds give pokeweed two thumbs up!” – Ginger Brandt

“I have blackberries, gooseberries, holly winterberries and more. With everything I grow, I have the birds, bees and butterflies in mind.” – Ruth Johnson

Northern mockingbirds and other visitors eat my firebush’s berries. In addition, ruby-throated hummingbirds sip its nectar.” – Dorothy Kamm

Deb Wiley
Deb Wiley, a fellow of Garden Communicators International, is a writer and editor who specializes in gardens. Her wooded backyard in Des Moines, Iowa, is fenced against hungry hordes of urban deer.