My wife and I recently moved to rural northern Illinois (zone 5b), in a house we designed ourselves.
What was once corn and soybean fields is now our front and back yards.
Since moving in just two months ago, we have planted 21 trees, most of which are the beginning of a windbreak. The rest of our landscape is a barren.
Of course we want to attract as many birds (and other wildlife) as possible and we are working with a blank slate so we have many options.
Here are just eleven plants we plan on using as a starting point to add on to year after year.
1. Big Bluestem - a tall native prairie grass that provides food and a lot of cover, especially good into the winter months.
2. Prairie Dropseed - a beautiful grass in its own right but also attracts birds.
3. Cupplant - attracts birds with their seeds and their leaves; the leaves form little cups that hold water and birds will come in for a drink.
Cupplants can get a bit unruly and take over. They grow amazingly tall too!
4. Coneflower - there are many varieties but goldfinches and sparrows feast off the seed heads and butterflies love them too!
5. Arrowwood Viburnum (or other viburnums) - these shrubs produce berries that attract a ton of birds. I successfully planted one of these in my parent's yard.
6. Royal Catchfly - a hummingbird magnet! I love these red beauties.
7. Cardinal Flower - another hummingbird favorite but one I had trouble getting to come back at my parent's house.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds preferred feeding on the flowers over the feeders.
8. Woodland Sunflower - seed-eating birds love this native sunflower. I also love other sunflowers, especially the ones that grow extra tall.
9. Blazingstar - there are several varieties that attract a lot of butterflies and other insects.
10. New Jersey Tea - birds love this plant! I've never used it but I've heard it is quite resilient and deer do not like it.
11. Wild Senna - a legume that birds love and is good for the soil.
I'd love to hear suggestions on other great wildlife attracting plants! I live on some of the best soil in the world, an area that was once prairie. It is silt loam, the land is nearly flat and drains fairly well and we are in full sun.
Note: We plan on moving our horse to our land, so there are quite a few plants we must avoid, including anything in the milkweed family.