Jul 17, 2019 | Featured Web Article

Vines for Birds

Native vines provide many things that birds need: nourishment, cover, housing, and mobility.
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Native vines check off multiple boxes of what birds need: nourishment, cover, housing, and mobility. Their fruits and seeds make them great food resources, their knotty networks provide shelter from the elements and protection for active nests, and small birds like warblers, chickadees, and kinglets are known to use vine systems to safely move from the tops of trees to understory shrubbery, then down to ground level. The following list explores some native vine options to consider growing in your own backyard for maximum birdy benefits. Keep in mind that vines can be voracious in both growth and spread, but also know that vines that are allowed to climb over logs, stumps, and fences into large shrubs and trees are optimal for birdlife.

Creeper

Virginia Creeper

Thicket creeper and Virginia creeper are common, ornamental, and liked by dozens of bird species for their berries. You may sometimes see a nest built in the mature plants' dense tangles.

Passionflower

Passionflower

With its otherworldly blooms and extensive spread (up to 25 feet!), the passionflower vine is a Southeastern native that feeds the birds as well as caterpillars of several species of butterfly.

Poison Ivy

Poison ivy

Although it presents as a shrub in the western portion of North America, poison ivy thrives as a hardy, shaggy vine in the South and East. Thrushes, woodpeckers, and warblers ignore the warning of "leaves of three, let it be," and instead consume its whitish, stone-centered fruits.

American Bittersweet

American bittersweet

Known for the bold red arils that emerge from their dull orange capsules at maturity, bittersweet’s tiny brown seeds help nourish multiple bird species through the winter months.

Wild Cucumber

Wild cucumber

Its spiky fruit isn't edible, but each "cucumber" does contain two seed chambers holding two seeds each, which some birds will consume. Mice also eat the seeds, so owls can benefit from this vine being present in your backyard as well. Wild cucumber grows in thick tangles that provide wind cover in winter and nest protection for wrens, chats, and cuckoos during the breeding season.

Clematis

Purple clematis

This genus within the buttercup family gives gorgeous blooms as well as small winter fruits that many birds eat. Clematis vines may be perennial or annual depending on the species, and they, too, form tangles to provide cover for your avian backyard visitors.

Grape

Grape vine

Opt to grow native grapevines rather than cultivars, because 1) you won't be as likely to get a taste for the grape crop yourself, so that 2) you won't resent the birds and other wildlife that definitely will.





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  • I am excited to have my daughter’s tree this year, since my landlord has removed the lovely yew next to my patio, which was the only shelter for birds at my feeder.
    by pmalcpoet, Mon, 20 Dec 2021
  • Goldfinches will continue as long as Swiss chard is available. I'm watching one eating chard right now (mid-November in Vermont).
    by Brian Tremback, Sun, 14 Nov 2021
  • Birds are on the decline though sunflowers are rarely touched and for weeks hardly .eaten. I'll try a few sparing nuts on the table and a fat ball broken for jackdaws and tits but mealworms were a summer favourite being my go to choice
    by Paul Harabaras, Thu, 04 Nov 2021
  • I’ve been enjoying goldfinches eating coneflower/ echinacea seeds in my new pollinator garden! I will leave the plants out all winter for them if the seeds keep that long? Or should I deadhead and put them in a dry area? Im in CT and thought they migrated, but didn’t know they put in winter coats! What do they eat in winter without bird feeders?
    by Anne Sheffield, Sat, 04 Sep 2021
  • Hi Gary, I will pass your question along to Birdsquatch next time I see him. He knows infinitely more about nocturnal wildlife than I do. Where do you live? That's pretty important in figuring out the answer. But the thief could be raccoons, deer, or flying squirrels. Do you live in the woods? Are there trees near your feeder, or must the culprit climb a shepherd's hook or pole? Dawn Hewitt, Watching Backyard Birds
    by Dawn Hewitt, Mon, 30 Aug 2021