In nature, colors act as signboards for birds that communicate important information, like which berries are ripe, what flowers contain nectar, and where to forage for seeds or hunt insects.
Birds are incredibly attuned to colors, so planting flowers is a great way to bring birds into your garden.
Why are birds attracted to flowers?
Birds are attracted to flowers for their sweet nectar, berries, and seeds. Flowers can entice a diversity of birds to the garden: Insectivorous birds gravitate toward bugs found on flowers, and hummingbirds and sunbirds are important pollinators for many flowering plants.
Why Birds Are Attracted to Flowers
Birds are attracted to flowers for a variety of reasons. It is fascinating to watch them swoop down and land on your blooms, picking at them or searching for a seed head to nibble on.
Various colors of flowers attract different birds. Flowering shrubs and perennials attract different birds than flowering annuals.
There is so much to learn about how you can use flowers to invite more birds into the garden all year round.
Bird Vision Is Adapted to See Color
Bird plumage, especially that of males, has developed a vibrant spectrum of colors, which are key to avian reproduction. Female birds choose their mates based on the vibrancy of their colored feathers, which signals good health and strong genes.
Ornithologists have documented over 2000 bird species from over 50 different families that are attracted to flowers to feed on their nectar, pollen, and insects that live on them.
Birds generally have a weak sense of smell, so they rely on visual cues like colors. This is partly why flowers have evolved to exist in such a wide range of colors. They are signaling birds towards them.
Because colors and flowers are such an important part of avian life, birds have evolved far superior color vision to humans. They have tetrachromatic vision (we only have trichromatic), meaning that they can see all the colors we can, as well as ultraviolet spectra.
There are oil droplets in their eyes that contain carotenoid light filters, possibly allowing birds to see red, orange, and yellow colors even better.
Birds are especially attuned to the colors red, orange, yellow and blue. White is a color that birds understand as a warning signal. Therefore, they are not attracted it.
Birds Are Important to Flowering Plants
Some birds have special adaptations like long, thinly curved beaks and tubular tongues that allow them to sip nectar from certain flowers. These flowers produce nectar as a reward for the birds, incentivizing them to aid in the pollination process.
Flowering plants all rely on pollination for sexual reproduction to produce seeds. Pollen from the male flower parts, the anthers, stick to birds’ feathers and legs.
When the bird flies to another flower of the same species, some of the pollen will transfer onto the female flowering part, the stamen, thereby pollinating the flower.
When a flower has been pollinated, the petals will drop off, and a fruit, berry or seed pod will begin to develop.
Birds love to eat these, but the plants do not mind because the seeds pass safely through the birds’ digestive system and when birds poo, the seeds are planted and ready to germinate far from the parent plant. In this way, birds help plants with seed dispersal.
Best Flower Colors to Attract Birds
Thanks to nurseries, garden centers, and online seed stores, we have access to a wide variety of flowering plants all year round. Choose these colors if you are planting flowers specifically to attract birds:
- Reds and pinks
- Blues and purples
Birds may be attracted to their colors because they signal an opportunity for feeding, or the colors may be eye-catching because they are similar to the color of birds’ plumage.
Flowers to Plant That Will Invite Birds
If you love wildlife but are still new to birding, plant a variety of flowers in red, pink, orange, yellow and blue hues and see which species come to visit. If you are already an avid birder, you may be wondering which flowers to grow to invite specific species that you want to see to your garden.
It is best to grow plants that are indigenous to your area, as birds will already be familiar with them.
Nectar Drinking Birds
To invite nectar loving species like hummingbirds, honeyeaters, sunbirds, white eyes, sugarbirds, or honeycreepers, plant these beautiful flowers:
- Bee Balm (Monarda species)
- Butterfly Bush (Buddleia species)
- Columbines (Aquilegia species)
- Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana species)
- Foxgloves (Digitalis species)
- Fuchsias (Fuchsia species)
- Honeysuckle (Lonicera species)
- Phlox (Phlox species)
- Red-hot Pokers (Kniphofia species)
- Sage (Salvia species)
- Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)
- Zinnias (Zinnia species)
Seed Eating Birds
Sparrows, finches, chickadees, buntings, siskins, doves, cardinals all love eating seeds. Plant these flowering plants, and avoid deadheading them to bring seedeaters into the garden:
- Asters (Symphyotrichum species)
- Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
- Coneflowers (Echinacea species)
- Cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus)
- Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)
- Daisies (Bellis species)
- Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
- Marigolds (Tagetes species)
- Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)
Fruit And Berry Eating Birds
Many species of plants that flower in summer produce scores of berries and fruit that birds find irresistible. These plants will attract robins, thrushes, orioles, starlings, woodpeckers, mockingbirds, blue jays, tanagers and warblers into the garden when they set berries and fruits:
- Cherry (Prunus species)
- Crabapple (Malus species)
- Elderberry (Sambucus species)
- Grapes (Vitis species)
- Holly (Ilex species)
- Roses (Rosa species)
- Sumac (Rhus species)
- Viburnum (Viburnum species)
Insects also enjoy the nectar and pollen that flowers produce, and by planting flowers that insects love, you will attract birds that love to eat insects.
To bring grosbeaks, nuthatches, cardinals, orioles, bluebirds, and robins into the garden, plant the following:
- Agapanthus species
- Allium species
- Aloe species
- Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
- Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)
- Dill (Anethum graveolens)
- Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
- Lavender (Lavandula species)
- Lemon Balm (Melissa ofﬁcinalis)
- Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
- Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)
- Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
A brilliant way to attract more birds into your garden is by planting a diversity of brightly colored flowers.
Birds are highly attuned to color because their sense of smell is weak; hence they rely on visual signals from plants to know where to find nectar, seeds, fruits, and berries.
Many plants flower in spring and summer — so, to attract birds to your garden during autumn and winter — plant flowers that produce fruits and berries. This way, you can enjoy birding in your garden all year round.