Hansen's Northwest Native Plant Database

Wildlife Habitats with Pacific Northwest Native Plants

Native plants exist for nearly every garden need including great variety in plant form, flowers, foliage and fruit. Natives will provide an ideal refuge and source of food for birds and animals. Many natives can survive under extreme drought conditions. Many natives are evergreen, providing a delightful mix with deciduous plants for a year-long, attractive garden.

Chickadee at right, photo by Sharon Stiteler

  • Plants to attract birds and other wildlife

  • Tips on construction

  • Tall evergreen trees for larger habitats

  • Smaller evergreen trees for smaller habitats and understory for larger habitats

  • Deciduous trees for larger habitats

  • Deciduous trees for small and large habitats

  • Deciduous shrubs for large and small habitats

  • Evergreen shrubs for large and small habitats

  • Perennials for large and small habitats

Plants to attract birds and other wildlife

There is a wide range of trees, shrubs, perennials and ground covers that provide food (and shelter) for birds, squirrels, etc.

Tall Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium)

Trees include:

Bitter Cherry (Prunus emarginata)

Cascara (Rhamnus purshiana)

Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)

Giant Chinquapin (Chrysolepis chrysophylla var. chrysophylla)

Hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii)

Klamath Plum (Prunus subcordata)


Oregon Myrtle (Umbellularia californica)

Western Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta var. californica)

Western Crabapple (Malus fusca)

Among the many native shrubs, the following are excellent:

Blackcap (Rubus leucodermis)

Cranberry Bush (Viburnum opulus var. americanum)

Elderberries, Red (Sambucus mexicana) and Blue (Sambucus racemosa var. arborescens)

Golden Currant (Ribes aureum var. aureum)

Huckleberries (Vaccinium)

Indian Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis)

Mountain Ash (Sorbus scopulina)

Oregon Grapes (Mahonia)

Pacific Blackberry (Rubus ursinus)

Roses (Rosa)

Salal (Gaultheria shallon)

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis)

Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)

Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra)

Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus var. laevigatus)

Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)

Three-Leaf Sumac (Rhus trilobata)

Twinberry (Lonicera involucrata)

Snowberry and Wild Roses, fruits of autumn

Nearly all flowering shrubs and perennials attract butterflies. For instance:

Red Columbine (Aquilegia formosa) attracts hummingbirds.

The large, coarse flowers of Cow Parsnip (Heracleum lanatum) attracts numerous insects.

If you thought butterflies were only attracted to flowers, here's a new idea! This butterfly is obviously enjoying a rest on the branch of a conifer. The fresh clean aroma of the needles must be a delightful cushion on which to spread those beautiful wings for a nice sunny break.

Consider including a tree like this near your butterfly garden. A new idea!

Suggested northwest native plants for developing wildlife habitats along the lowland corridor from the Canadian border, south throughout the Puget Sound country and Seattle to Portland and the Willamette Valley to Roseburg, Oregon.

The above areas share a common heritage of native plants which form excellent habitats for mammals, birds, butterflies, insects, etc. I recommend below the best native plants for both large and small habitats in this corridor and list some of the “wildlife” that like each species. For more general information about each species, refer to the plant lists here.

I walked in early morn

Along an overgrown country road.

The thistles and grass smothered all

Except I caught a glimpse of red,

A tiny signal of some hidden prize!

Carefully I parted the grassy shield

And found to my delight,

A wondrous Red Columbine,

Hiding behind a shield of thorn and grass.

Carefully I cleared a space and left,

Assured that some wandering Hummingbird

Would soon find in Slendar Nectar Tubes,

The food of the Gods, the wondrous Ambrosia

Which only Hummingbirds can know!

Tips on construction


Large habitats should have a frame of large evergreen and deciduous trees. This may take decades to reach a significant size. For more modest projects, use shrubs, both deciduous and evergreen, with some perennials.


Wildlife need food, water and shelter. You must solve the water need.


The plants below are my choices for food and shelter in the western Washington and western Oregon corridor.


Try to always include species that form dense thickets like Douglas Hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii) are good choices and native roses (Rosa) – protect the little “wildlife.”


Study how tall each shrub you select may grow so you fill in with food and shelter at different levels from the ground up.


Always include Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus var. laevigatus) for winter wildlife food (but they are inedible to humans--thank you, Wanda!).


Try to include at least one evergreen for winter color – don’t forget that Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea ssp. stolonifera) will have very attractive bare winter red stems.

Douglas Hawthorn (Crataegus doiuglasii)

Photo credit: Nadiatalent

Tall evergreen trees for larger habitats

Abies ssp – (True Firs) - (White Fir, Noble Fir, Grand Fir) Provide shelter for birds and mammals. Many birds eat the seeds including chickadees, nuthatches, grosbeaks, crossbills, finches, sapsuckers and woodpeckers.

Calocedrus decurrens  (Incense Cedar) Provides shelter for birds and mammals. Birds eating seeds include sparrows, thrushes, flickers, siskins and nuthatches

Pinus ssp - (Pines) - (Ponderosa, Shore, Lodgepole) Provide shelter. Seeds eaten by pigeons, quail, doves, finches, squirrels, chipmunks, chickadees.

Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas Fir) Birds eat the seeds. Important nesting and shelter habitat for birds and squirrels.

Tsuga heterophylla (Western Hemlock) Seeds eaten by squirrels, chipmunks and birds in the winter. Deer and elk browse twigs.

Smaller evergreen trees for smaller habitats and understory for larger habitats  

Tsuga mertensiana (Mountain Hemlock) Seeds eaten by siskins, juncos, finches, crossbills, squirrels, chipmunks. Dense foliage provides protection.

Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mentensiana)

Photo credit: Iwona Erskine-Kellie


Deciduous trees for larger habitats

Acer macrophyllum (Big Leaf Maple) Bark rough areas support Licorice Ferns, mosses and lichens which in turn support other wildlife. Seeds eaten by siskins, finches, crossbills, chickadees, juncos, chipmunks and squirrels. Also support beavers, deer and muskrats.  Source of nectar for bees.

Alnus rubra (Red Alder) Many birds eat seeds, including mallards, grouse, widgeons, kinglets, vireos, warblers. Porcupine, hares, beavers, deer and elk eat leaves and twigs.

Fraxinus latifolia (Oregon Ash) Grouse, ducks, finches and other birds eat seeds. Deer and elk eat leaves and twigs. 

Deciduous trees for small and large habitats

Acer circinatum (Vine Maple) Birds eat seeds – good nectar source for bees. Smaller tree, also OK for smaller habitats.

Prunus emarginata (Bitter Cherry) Forms thickets – ideal for protection of smaller birds and animals. Many birds eat fruit including pigeons, jays, bluebirds, robins, orioles, finches, doves. Fruit also liked by squirrels, bears, chipmunks, coyotes, raccoons. Several butterfly species associated with Bitter Cherry.

Crataegus douglasii (Black Hawthorne) “A Must For Every Habitat.” Forms very tough, impenetrable thicket to protect small critters! Berries eaten by robins, solitaires, waxwings, thrushes, grosbeaks, woodpeckers, pigeons, ducks, pheasants, turkeys, foxes, bear and coyotes. Use this plant in every wildlife habitat.

Malus fusca (Western Crabapple) Smaller tree that eventually forms a dense thicket. Birds eat fruit, including grouse, waxwings, sapsuckers, woodpeckers, towhees, grosbeaks. Fruit also eaten by mammals.

Vine Maple (Acer circinatum)


 Deciduous shrubs for large and small habitats

Cornus sericea ssp. stolonifera (Red Twig Dogwood) Forms a thicket that offers excellent protection for wildlife. Berries eaten by warblers, robins, fly catchers, flickers, vireos, wood ducks, grouse, pigeons, quail, bear, elk, rabbits. Orange sulfur butterflies use nectar.

Oemleria cerasiformis (Indian Plum) Berries eaten by robins, waxwings, foxes, coyotes, bear and deer.

Ribes sanguineum (Red Flowering Currant) Berries eaten by robins, towhees, thrushes, waxwings, jays, sparrows, woodpeckers, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, mountain beavers, skunks, chipmunks, squirrels.

Rosa ssp (Native Roses, Nootka, Cluster, Bald Hip) Native Roses form dense thickets, perfect cover for many birds and mammals. Birds that eat rose hips include grouse, juncos, bluebirds, grosbeaks, pheasants, quail, thrushes. Mammals that eat rose hips include rabbits, chipmunks, porcupines, deer, elk, coyotes and bear.

Rubus parviflorus (Thimbleberry) Birds that eat berries include wrens, quail and finches. Mammals that eat the fruit include foxes, coyotes, bear.

Rubus spectabilis (Salmonberry) Birds that eat berries include wrens, quail, thrushes, robins, pheasants. Mammals eating the fruit include raccoons, squirrels, foxes, coyotes, bear. Visited by humming birds and bees.

Sambucus ssp. (Red and Blue Elderberry) Red berries are ripe in early summer and blue berries in the fall, giving a long period of food availability. Many mammals eat the fruit. Birds that eat the fruit include woodpeckers, grosbeaks, jays, tanagers, sparrows and thrushes. Hummingbirds, bees and butterflies use the nectar.

Spirea douglasii (Douglas Spirea) Forms tight thickets – good shelter. Attracts butterflies.

Symphoricarpos albus (Snowberry) White berries persist into winter, providing winter food for birds including grouse, pheasants and quail – emergency food for many other birds. Hummingbirds and bees like the nectar.

Vaccinium ssp. (Red & Mountain Huckleberry) Berries eaten by doves, jays, orioles, sparrows. Hummingbirds and bees extract nectar.

Evergreen shrubs for large and small habitats

Arctostaphylos columbiana (Hairy Manzanita) Fruit eaten by quail, grouse, raccoons, coyotes, squirrels, deer. Hummingbirds and bees extract nectar.

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnik) Low ground cover. Birds like fruit including grouse, sparrows, pigeons. Bees like flowers.

Garrya elliptica (Silk Tassel) is an important member of wildlife refuges grown as a tree or shrub, the male plant has longer winter catkins than the female. Both have purple-grey blossoms, and the female produces dark berries. The dense evergreen foliage provides shelter for all sorts of birds and is especially loved by hummers.

Gaultheria shallon (Salal) Fruit eaten by pigeons, grouse, coyotes, bear.

Mahonia aquifolium (Tall Oregon Grape) Fruit eaten by birds including pheasants, robins and juncos. Foxes and raccoons like the fruit – Bees and butterflies extract the nectar.

Mahonia nervosa (Cascade Oregon Grape) Low form of Mahonia for ground level fruit. Fruit eaten by grouse, pheasants, thrushes. Nectar extracted by butterflies.

Vaccinium ovatum (Evergreen Huckleberry) Food for late summer and fall. Birds that like berries include pigeons, robins, towhees, sparrows. Mammals also like the berries including bears and raccoons.


Silk Tassel (Garrya elliptica)

Lovely evergreen shrub, dark green leaves

and purple catkin-like blooms in winter

Perennials for large and small habitats

Aquilegia formosa (Red Columbine) The favorite native for Hummingbirds! Sparrows & finches like seeds.

Bird and Squirrel Feeders

It's time to get those wildlife feeders cleaned up and ready for our furred and feathered friends. The bird houses and nesting boxes can wait for now but the feeders and watering sources need to be checked. Here's what the Audubon Society recommends:

Much like a busy restaurant needs constant cleaning to maintain sanitary conditions, so dose a busy bird feeder or bird bath.

Left unchecked, unclean receptacles can develop fungi and bacteria, potentially causing disease and even death of your resident songbirds. The communal feeding and bathing by your birds allows for the easy spread of disease. Contaminated food or droppings can cause a host of diseases and infections that can result in harmful growths and other effects on the birds.

Extra attention should be paid during cold winter months, since wet foods can quickly develop molds. When adding new seed to your feeders, make a habit of removing leftover seed first, and cleaning periodically. Depending on weather conditions, bird feeders should generally be cleaned every two weeks. Baths should be emptied and refilled every few days. For a thorough cleaning of feeders and bird baths, use 9 parts water to one part bleach, or use vinegar (bleach can whiten wood feeders).

Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum)

A Special Screensaver
Northwest Native Plants for Backyard Wildlife Habitats is a watch and learn slide show screensaver. Beautiful photographs of northwest wildlife and the native plants they prefer.

Go to the screensaver page.

Learn more about wildlife habitats in these issues of the NW Native Plant Journal, our monthly online magazine:

December 2006, Vol. 4, Issue 10

Backyard Wildlife Habitats, What you need to know, pg.21

The Elderberry Party, An annual event, pg.47

Just for the Birds, Safe bird feeding practices, pg.48

September 2007, Vol. 5, Issue 9

Bring on the hummers, Natives to attract them, pg.24

July 2007, Vol. 5, Issue 7

Oregon Butterfly in Double Trouble, The plight of Fender’s Blue, pg.27

October 2007, Vol. 5, Issue 10

Wildlife: In or Out?, Tips to attract or repel, pg.13

Cats, pg.13

Dogs, pg.23

Deer, pg.24

Raccoons, pg.28

General tips, pg.31

Attracting birds, pg.36

January 2005, Vol. 3, Issue 1

Plant for Wildlife, Create a wildlife habitat in your own yard, pg.17

Contact:  star@chillirose.com ~ Copyright 2012 © Wallace W. Hansen ~ All rights reserved