Shrubs to attract birds in Northern Nevada

Blooms of common chokecherry.

Blooms of common chokecherry.

My friend Monique asked me to write about shrubs that attract birds. A bird-friendly habitat requires food, water and shelter. Food consists of sap, nectar, pollen, seeds, nuts, berries or fruits. Shrubs should be dense enough to support nests, but also allow birds to move about to escape predators. A diverse plant palette meets a variety of bird needs. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says, “Nothing provides an easier or more dependable food supply than ‘birdscaping’ your yard with native vegetation.”

However, the addition of non-native shrubs can provide not only additional food and cover sources, but also add aesthetic appeal.

When selecting shrubs, look for species that are drought-tolerant, unless you have a wet site. Plants used within 30 feet of a structure should be the least flammable possible. This means no junipers in that area for example.

Native shrubs that attract birds include:

Western serviceberry — Amelanchier alnifolia — berries edible to people too

Mountain whitethorn — Ceanothus cordulatus — fragrant flowers also attract bees

Curlleaf mountain mahongany — Cercocarpus ledifolius — evergreen, fire hazard

Red-osier dogwood — Cornus stolonifera — needs damp soil

Mormon tea — Ephedra viridus — extremely drought tolerant

Bush oceanspray — Holodiscus dumosus

Juniper — Juniperus species — highly flammable

Desert peach — Prunus andersonii — thorns, slow grower

Bitter cherry — Prunus emarginata — forms thickets

Common chokecherry — Prunus virginiana — can be poisonous to livestock

Smooth sumac — Rhus glabra — allergenic to people sensitive to poison oak

Skunkbush sumac — Rhus trilobata — allergenic to people sensitive to poison oak

Golden currant — Ribes aureum — edible fruit for jams, pies

Sierra currant — Ribes nevadense — edible fruit

Desert gooseberry — Ribes velutinum — edible fruit for jams, pies, thorns

Wood’s rose — Rosa woodsii — thorny thicket hard to control

Thimbleberry — Rubus parviflorus — high water use, needs a cool site

Elderberry — Sambucus species — fruit can be used for wines or jellies if processed properly

Common snowberry — Symphoricarpos albus — needs moisture

Ornamental (non-native) shrubs include:

Barberry — Berberis thunbergii — thorns

Butterfly bush — Buddleja davidii — many varieties

Flowering quince — Chaenomeles species — one of first shrubs to bloom

Cotoneaster — Cotoneaster species — many types

Euonymous — Euonymous species — many types and varieties

Honeysuckle — Lonicera species — shrubs or vines

Oregon grape — Mahonia aquifolium — evergreen

Firethorn — Pyracantha hybrids — thorns, colorful berries

Roses — Rosa species

Lilac — Syringa vulgaris and hybrids — another early bloomer

Viburnum — Viburnum species — many types and varieties

For detailed information and growing tips on native shrubs, see my publication “Selected Native Shrubs of Northern Nevada — Are They Right for the Home Landscape” at

JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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