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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