Plants for Birds


The Jayhawk Audubon Society has joined with National Audubon to promote Plants for Birds, a nationwide effort to get 1 million native plants planted within five years.

Whether you have a small city lot, a generous suburban yard, or a rural estate, the way you landscape your property can make a difference to birds.

Birds need food, shelter, water, and nesting sites. Gardeners are in a unique position to provide all four. Read on for the specifics of how you can create a bird-friendly garden in eastern Kansas.

Photo by Jim Bresnahan
Photo by Jim Bresnahan

Prothonotary warbler with two caterpillars.

Photo by Jim Bresnahan
Photo by Jim Bresnahan

Milkweeds are essential to the Monarch butterfly.

Photo by Jim Bresnahan
Photo by Jim Bresnahan

Photo by Jim Bresnahan
Photo by Jim Bresnahan

Prothonotary warbler with two caterpillars.


Three tenets of Gardening for Birds

Grow trees, shrubs, vines and flowers

Lots of them

Mostly native

It's all about insects

Adult birds eat insects - lots of them. Bees, beetles, moths, butterflies, wasps, bugs, and grasshoppers all are on the menu. Nestlings and fledglings are particularly dependent on insect food which comprises nearly their entire diets. Our yards need to produce an abundance of insects in order to feed both adult and baby birds.

Gardening for birds means gardening for insects. Since native insects have evolved to feed on native plants, we need to grow an abundance of native plants.

Click on the chickadee photo below to download a list of backyard birds and what they eat.

The best native plants

Eastern Kansas, with its patchwork of forests and prairies, is home to hundreds of species of plants — many of them quite showy when grown in a cultivated garden.

In fact, many of our natives are grown elsewhere around the world as ornamentals. Think of Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Liatris, and prairie grasses, for example. Planting native species does not mean you can't have a gorgeous garden.​

For a list of Kansas native plants, including photos and the birds each attracts, visit National Audubon's database and input your zip code.

For a list of recommended natives that you can print and take to a garden center, click on the Coneflower photo below.

Birds need food, shelter, and water. Click here for general tips about landscaping to benefit birds.

Where to Buy
Native Plants

Several nonprofit organizations hold native plant sale fundraisers. This year, the Grassland Heritage Foundation is holding an in-person sale in Lawrence on May 15, 2021. Visit GHF website to learn more.

Master Gardeners of Douglas County is holding an on-line native plant sale May 3 - June 1, 2021 with curbside pick-up on June 5 & 6. Order early for the best selection!

Many local nurseries and garden centers also sell native plants. We recommend you check their websites for information about ordering and pickup during COVID restrictions. Here is a partial list:

Happy Apple's Farm

Henry's Plant Farm

One Heart Farm

Vinland Valley Nursery