For the Birds: Trees Are the View—Just Ask a Bird

Monday, February 8, 2021

Anna's Hummingbird nest. Photo by Dan Harville

By Christine Southwick

On the wing, looking down, treetops and branches offer respite, safety, and food.

Our resident birds, plus migrating birds, use trees for so many things: resting and safe sleeping; shelter from rain, wind, and cold temperatures; food - fruits, nuts, bugs and caterpillars; nesting - either on branches or in trunk cavities; and prime territorial perches (both for singing to attract and keep mates, and for sighting territorial invaders).

Red-breasted Sapsucker making sap holes Photo by Christine Southwick

Which trees are best--Evergreens or deciduous?

Depends on the species of bird — Bald Eagles, Merlins, Band-tailed Pigeons, owls, hawks, and crows need tall trees, preferably conifers. 

Many smaller birds also prefer evergreen pines, cedars, spruces and firs: chickadees, nuthatches, Pileated, Downy, and Hairy Woodpeckers, Northern Flicker, and Red-breasted Sapsucker, even our Anna’s Hummingbird will use the sap holes in the trunks of large evergreens made by sapsuckers for much needed winter-time sugar energy.

It’s a delight to watch Bushtits and Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees flitting from one hemlock or cedar branch to the next branch, hanging upside down gleaning tiny insects unseen by human eyes.

Red-breasted Nuthatch on Trunk (with grub) Photo by Elaine Chuang

Deciduous trees are mostly smaller and have seasonal color.

Fruiting trees supply extra energy and have the additional advantage of colorful blossoms which nourish bees and other pollinators. 

Finches, American Robins and warblers like Yellow-rumped Warblers prefer native deciduous trees. The birds recognize and eat beneficial insects and help keep your trees healthy. The branches provide anchors and cover for nests and help restrict access to those necessary bird structures.

Even “ground birds” like Song Sparrows, Golden-crowned and White-crowned Sparrows, Spotted Towhees and Oregon Juncos use trees to their advantage.

Bewick's Wren fledgling. Photo by Elaine Chuang

Evergreen trees provide year-round shelter and slow down winter stormwater runoff, much needed in this region, plus they bestow greenness to our gray winters. There is a reason why Washington is officially the Evergreen State.

Did you know that 72% of Shoreline’s tree canopy is privately owned in yours and your neighbors yards? 

Unless a specific tree is in danger of falling, please keep your trees, or even plant more. (Leaves create a protective barrier in the winter and enrich your garden soil.) You can take pride in keeping your share of Shoreline’s canopy. You really are helping our city breath better.

Want to plant an evergreen tree?

If you want to figure out the value of a specific tree here is the link to the tree value calculator used by City of Edmonds


Bridget February 9, 2021 at 11:17 AM  

Great article and very inspiring to plant more!

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