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Florida Cooperative Extension Service Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences University of Florida, Gainesville John T. Woeste, Dean for Extension

Landscaping to Attract Birds in South Florida

By Timothy K. Broschat and Stephen D. Verkade

Associate Professor - Tropical Ornamentals, and Associate Professor - Ornamental Horticulture, Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, IFAS, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

One benefit of Florida living is the enjoyment of plants and wildlife in the landscape through most of the year. By proper plant selection, you can enhance your landscape to attract, feed, and shelter birds for year-round enjoyment. When selecting plants to incorporate into the landscape, keep in mind the need for birds to obtain shelter from inclement weather and from predators. A number of plant species can also attract birds by providing fruits as a source of food. Flowers of some species attract insects, which are in turn eaten by other types of birds. Migratory birds are particularly abundant along the coastal ridges in southern Florida. These birds can be attracted to landscapes by use of plants that provide seeds, fruits or insects during the fall and spring migrations. These food sources can be complemented by one or more bird feeders which must provide high quality seed with regularity. A good bird feeder should be conveniently located for viewing and large enough to hold food for at least 2-3 days, protect the seed from rain, and minimize seed spillage. Many bird guidebooks provide information on the bird species attracted by various seed types. Keep in mind that many of south Florida’s songbirds are migrants or winter residents, and will thus require food or cover during the fall, winter, and spring months only.

Landscape Principles to Attract Birds

Solid design concepts are important in any landscape project, and references on design principles are listed in this fact sheet under the heading of ‘Recommended References’. The following are additional considerations to remember when landscaping to attract birds.

Provide shelter to entice birds into your yard and to protect them from the elements or predators.

Select a variety of plants which offer a consistent supply of food over an extended period of time.

Select plants that flower or fruit during the spring migrations and attract insects. Insects, in turn, attract insectivorous birds. In some areas in southern Florida, the flowering gumbo-limbo (Bursera simaruba) attracts large numbers of warblers in their spring breeding plumage as they migrate northward.

Design plantings which offer enough food to meet the needs of the birds.

Provide a source of water for drinking and bathing. Moving water in a gently sloping basin or trough is particularly attractive to birds.

These criteria can be met by careful planning during the design phase of the landscape project. Select a variety of plants to extend the fruiting period for a year-round supply of food. Group plants together to create habitats attractive to birds. Be sure to include enough plants of each species to provide food in a volume great enough for the dietary needs of the birds attracted to your yard. The following listing is designed to assist you in selecting plants which have attributes particularly attractive to birds.

Table 1. Listing of plants for south Florida which attract birds; noting origin, plant type, plant part of value, season, and birds attracted.

Scientific Name Common Name Origin Plant Type Value Season Birds Attracted
Ardisia escallonioides Marlberry native shrub fruit fall;
Fruit-eating birds
Asclepias curassavica Scarlet Milkweed exotic shrubby perennial flowers year-round Hummingbirds
Bauhinia blakeana Hong Kong Orchid exotic tree flowers winter;
Hummingbirds,Orioles, Warblers
Bursera simaruba Gumbo Limbo native tree fruit summer Mockingbirds,Vireos
Calliandra haematacephala Powderpuff exotic shrub flowers winter Hummingbirds
Callicarpa americana Beautyberry native shrub fruit fall;winter Mockingbirds, Cardinals,Catbirds, Thrashers
Calyptranthes pallens Spicewood native shrub fruit fall Fruit-eating birds
Cestrum spp. Day and night-flowering jasmine exotic shrub fruit spring; fall Mockingbirds, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Woodpeckers
Chrysobalanus icaco Cocoplum native shrub fruit summer Fruit-eating birds
Coccoloba diversifolia Pigeon Plum native tree fruit fall;winter Mockingbirds, Catbirds, Robins, Woodpeckers
Coccoloba uvifera Seagrape native shrub;tree fruit year-round Fruit-eating birds
Coccothrinax spp. Silver palms native tree fruit summer Mockingbirds, Blue Jays
Colubrina arborescens Coffee colubrina native tree flowers spring Warblers, Gnatcatchers, Vireos, Flycatchers
Dipholis salicifolia Willow bustic native tree fruit summer Fruit-eating birds
Eriobotrya japonica Loquat exotic tree fruit winter Mockingbirds, Cardinals, Woodpeckers
Eugenia uniflora Surinam Cherry exotic shrub fruit spring Mockingbirds, Waxwings, Orioles
Ficus spp. Figs native;
tree fruit;
year-round Mockingbirds, Catbirds, BlueJays, Waxwings, Woodpeckers, Parrots
Forestiera segregata Florida Privet native shrub flowers spring Warblers, Vireos
Guapira discolor Blolly native shrub;
fruit summer Fruit-eating birds
Hamelia patens Firebush native shrub flowers year-round Hummingbirds
Ilex cassine Dahoon Holly native tree fruit fall;winter Cardinals, Mockingbirds, Waxwings
Juniperus silicicola Southern Red Cedar native shrub;tree fruit;cover fall;winter Tree Swallows, Waxwings, Mockingbirds, Flickers, Sapsuckers
Justicia brandegeana Shrimp Plant exotic shrub flowers year-round Hummingbirds, Orioles, Buntings
Lysiloma spp. Wild Tamarind native tree flowers spring;summer Warblers, Flycatchers, Gnatcatchers
Malpighia glabra Barbados Cherry exotic shrub fruit year-round Fruit-eating birds
Malaviscus arboreus Turk's Cap exotic shrub flowers year-round Hummingbirds, Painted Buntings
Morus rubra Red Mulberry native tree fruit spring Woodpeckers, Kingbirds, Blue Jays, Mockingbirds, and other Fruit-eating birds
Murraya paniculata Orange-jasmine exotic shrub fruit summer;
Mockingbirds, Cardinals
Myrica cerifera Wax myrtle native shrub fruit fall;
Warblers, Vireos, Tree Swallows, Cardinals, Mockingbirds, Catbirds
Myrsine guianensis Florida Myrsine native shrub fruit fall;
Fruit-eating birds
Parthenocissus cinquefolia Virginia Creeper native vine fruit summer;
Mockingbirds, Robins, Thrashers, Woodpeckers, Greta-crested Flycatchers
Persea americana Avocado exotic tree fruit summer;
Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, Orioles
Psychotria nervosa Wild Coffee native shrub fruit summer;
Cardinals, BlueJays
Ptychosperma elegans Solitaire Palm exotic tree fruit year-round Mockingbirds, Blue Jays
Pyracantha coccinea Firethorn exotic shrub fruit winter Mockingbirds, Catbirds, Blue Jays, Waxwings, Woodpeckers
Quercus laurifolia Laurel Oak native tree fruit fall;winter Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, Warblers, Vireos
Quercus virginiana Live Oak native tree fruit fall;winter Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, Warblers, Vireos
Roystonea regia Royal Palm native tree fruit fall;winter Mockingbirds, Robins, Blue Jays
Sabal palmetto Cabbage Palm native tree fruit fall;winter Blackbirds, Blue Jays, Mockingbirds, Robins
Sambucus canadensis Elderberry native shrub fruit summer;
Fruit-eating birds
Simarouba glauca Paradise Tree native tree fruit spring Fruit-eating birds
Sophora tomentosa Necklace Pod native shrub flowers winter;
Hummingbirds, Warblers, Vireos
Tecomaria capensis Cape Honeysuckle exotic vine flowers year-round Hummingbirds, Catbirds, Orioles
Tetrazygia bicolor Florida Tetrazygia native shrub fruit spring Mockingbirds and other Fruit-eating birds
Thrinax spp. Thatch Palms native tree fruit fall Mockingbirds, Jays, and other Fruit-eating birds
Trema micrantha Florida Trema native shrub fruit summer Fruit-eating birds