Cedar Waxwing on black cherry.
Cedar Waxwing on black cherry.
Plants for Birds

Superstar Native Plants for Vermont

Some native plants are more powerful than others when it comes to supporting pollinators and birds.
Cedar Waxwing on black cherry. Photo: Will Stuart
Cedar Waxwing on black cherry. Photo: Will Stuart
Plants for Birds

Superstar Native Plants for Vermont

Some native plants are more powerful than others when it comes to supporting pollinators and birds.

Consider what’s already present in the landscape, encourage their growth, and fill in the gaps with some superstars. Bloom time, food type, and layers of the landscape are a few of the ways to think about what's needed for the birds and the bees. 

Planting natives is better for you, local wildlife, and the environment. Lake Champlain and other local waterways benefit, too. Because native plants are better adapted to their environment they'll use less water and won't need toxic chemicals or fertilizers. Planting different layers of native vegetation like flowering plants, shrubs, and trees will help absorb and filter runoff from heavy storms before they enter waterways.

Here's a list of the superstars. Find more details and photos below. 

Native Trees: Oak, Black Cherry, Birch, Red Maple, Serviceberry

Native Shrubs: Shrub Willow, Alder, Dogwood, Blueberry

Native Perennials: Joe Pye, Aster, Goldenrod, Sunflowers

For additional ideas, explore Audubon's Native Plants Database.

Native Trees

Oak 

Oaks stand out for their biodiversity potential. They serve as larval hosts for hundreds of species of insects, which in turn provide reliable forage for birds. Host to 462 species of caterpillars.

Blooms April-May. 

Red-eyed Vireo on burr oak.
Red-eyed Vireo on burr oak. Photo: putneypics/Flickr CC

Black Cherry 

Cherries are second only to oaks when it comes to the number of species of insects that they support. Chery fruits also feed the birds. Host to 390 species of caterpillars. 

Blooms April-May. 

Cedar Waxwing on black cherry.
Cedar Waxwing on black cherry. Photo: Will Stuart

Birch 

A favorite tree for birds to forage for insects on the bark. Birch seeds are an important food source for birds. Host to 354 species of caterpillars.

Blooms April-May. 

Downy Woodpecker on white birch.
Downy Woodpecker on white birch. Photo: David Brislance/Great Backyard Bird Count

Red Maple

One of the first flowers to bloom in the spring. Red maples flower every year, providing a reliable food source for early pollinators. Host to 276 species of caterpillars. 

Blooms March-April. 

Red maple flowers against a bright blue sky.
Red maple flowers. Photo: Martin LaBar/Flickr, Creative Commons

Serviceberry

This small tree fits well into the landscape. It has lovely white flowers in the springtime, followed by delicious berries that are edible for humans (or you can get to them before the birds). The fruit tastes like a cross between a blueberry and a grape and is a favorite of Cedar Waxwings, American Robins and other fruit-loving birds. 

Blooms April-May.

Baltimore Oriole with Serviceberry
Baltimore Oriole with Serviceberry Photo: Deborah Bifulco

Native Shrubs

Shrub Willow 

Willows are often the only food sources for early-emerging pollinators. A tremendous diversity of shrub willows are native to Vermont. Host to 371 species of caterpillars

Blooms March-May. 

Red-bellied Woodpecker on shrub willow.
Red-bellied Woodpecker on shrub willow. Photo: Michele Black/Great Backyard Bird Count

Speckled Alder 

Another essential, early-blooming shrub. Provides food and cover for goldfinches and grouse. Thrives in wet soils. Host to 222 species of caterpillars.

Blooms in March.  

Speckled alder.
Speckled alder. Photo: Distant Hill Gardens/Flickr CC

Dogwoods

Berries of different species of native Vermont dogwoods ripen throughout the summer, providing a steady supply of fruit for birds.

Blooms April-May. 

Shrub dogwood.
Shrub dogwood. Photo: Maggie Starbard/Plum Audubon Society

Blueberries – Delicious for humans as well as birds. Host to 276 species of caterpillars. Blooms in May.  

Native Perennials

Joe Pye– An excellent, long-blooming nectar source in mid-summer. Host to 42 species of caterpillars.  Blooms July-September. 

Cardinal flower and Joe pye.
Cardinal flower and Joe pye. Photo: Douglas Tallamy

AsterProvides late-season pollen and nectar to foraging insects. Birds feast on the seeds through the fall and winter. Host to 99 species of caterpillars. Blooms August-September.  

Native aster species with bee.
Native aster species with bee. Photo: Mark Moschell/Flickr CC

Goldenrod - Provides even later-season pollen and nectar to foraging insects. Birds feast on the seeds through the fall and winter. Not responsible for seasonal allergies. (It’s the ragweed.) Host to 125 species of caterpillars. Blooms August-October. 

Goldenrod species with pollinator
Goldenrod species with pollinator. Photo: Evan Barrientos/Audubon Rockies

Sunflowers – While not native to Vermont, sunflowers are a great larval host and a favorite high-fat seed source for birds. Plants will self-seed from year to year, but are an annual, not a perennial. Host to 60 species of caterpillars. Blooms July-September. 

Yellow Warblers with sunflowers
Yellow Warblers with sunflowers. Photo: Catherine Harris/Audubon Photography Awards

Research and data on caterpillar numbers thanks to Professor Doug Tallamy

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