native plants for bird food
Which native plants provide good year round forage for birds native to the Portland West Hills?
Washington County Oregon
Thank you for contacting the OSU Extension Service, and thank you for thinking about our native, wild birds!
Native plants offer many advantages to non-native plants. Once established, they require less water to maintain, produce seed and fruit that our native birds and other wildlife prefer, and attract native pollinators that have lost a lot of their native habitat. And the good news is, there is great effort put into promoting natives here in Oregon and no shortage of plants for you to consider when attracting native birds.
In the West Hills, you live in an area that is a transition between the Oregon Coast Range forest (shade tolerant understory plants) and the Willamette Valley prairie and oak savanna (more open grown, sun-loving plants). This offers a wide variety of native plants to choose from depending upon your site conditions.
There are a number of things to remember when considering what to plant:
- Diversity of food types - plant for fruit, seed and nectar feeders, which will benefit more than just birds
- The timing of when the plants bloom and fruit, and how persistent the mature fruits and seeds are when other food sources (particularly insects) are not available. Some fruit and seeds, for example, are highly preferred by birds and are consumed early, while other fruit and seeds are ready later in the growing season and will hang on the plant longer before being consumed.
- The site conditions where you want to put the plants - e.g., how much area do you have, amount of shade or sun throughout the day, ability to get water to the plants
- Growth characteristic of each plant - as they mature, will the plants get large or spread and take up space, or remain compact? From an aesthetic perspective, think about what you want the area to look like as the plants mature and change year to year.
- Pacific NW Native Plants by Plant Community - https://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/techniques/pacific-nw-native-plants-plant-community (a fantastic listing and description of native plants, organized by the plant community in which they live - specifies wildlife values)
- Gardening with Oregon Native Plants West of the Cascades - https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/catalog/files/project/pdf/ec1577.pdf (This extensive publication discusses plant selection considerations and a detailed list of native plants with their drought tolerance, wildlife value (food, shelter, nesting cover, etc. for insects, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians)
- Enhancing Urban and Suburban Landscapes to Protect Pollinators - https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/em9289/html (this one details what pollinators need, site and design considerations, and a list of native plants and their bloom times. There's also an online course associated with this publication, with a link provided to register)
- West Multnomah Soil and Wildlife Conservation District - https://wmswcd.org/types/native-plants/ (The West Multnomah SWCD is your local SWCD for the West Hills. They have many resources and staff to assist in choosing native plants for wildlife, including a native plants database, Portland plant list and other resources.)
Thank you again for contacting the OSU Extension Service!