By Jennifer Benner, Audubon Connecticut Contributor and Co-Author of The Nonstop Garden
There is a vast majority who agree fall is by far the best season in New England and Connecticut—not only for the crisp, sunny, comfortable weather but also for the blanket of vibrant reds, oranges, and golds that sweeps across the landscape. The flush of colors comes to us by way of autumn forest leaves. For those who look a bit more closely however, there is also a layer of beauty within the native shrublands as the fall fruit ripens.
Attractive fall fruit, especially the bright, colorful berries of shrubs like winterberry, chokeberries, and viburnums, provide a magnificent display of seasonal interest to the natural as well as the home landscape. They also provide critical nourishment for birds and other wildlife, which are struggling to find food and the habitats they need in Connecticut and throughout our region.
Although it may appear as though much of the Connecticut landscape is comprised of vast natural habitats, habitat diversity is declining. The shrubland and successional habitats that support birds and wildlife are transitioning to mature forests (or being developed). Through best-practice land management programs, land stewards, like the Bent of the River Audubon Center, are working hard to restore habitat diversity. Best-practice land management is not something that can only be done on a large scale, homeowners can help too by planting native shrubs and plants in their gardens and landscape.
Here’s a list of 10 great native shrubs that supply amazing fall beauty as well as food and shelter for birds and other wildlife, including Sparrows, Wrens, Orioles, Wood Warblers, Vireos, Waxwings, Mockingbirds, Thrashers, Cardinals, Grosbeaks, Woodpeckers, Crows, Jays, Chickadees, Titmice, Nuthatches, and Thrushes.
- Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, USDA Hardiness Zones 3-8, partial to full sun)
- Chokeberries (Aronia species, Zones 3-9, partial to full sun)
- Dogwoods (Cornus species, Zones 3-9, full sun to light shade)
- Elderberries (Sambucus species, Zones 3-9, full sun to light shade)
- New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus, Zones 4-9, partial to full sun)
- Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica, Zones 4-7, full sun to light shade)
- Serviceberries (Amelanchier species, Zones 2-9, full sun to light shade)
- Spicebush (Lindera benzoin, Zones 4-9, partial sun to full shade)
- Viburnums (Viburnum species, Zones 3-9, full sun to light shade)
- Winterberry (Ilex verticillata, Zones 3-9, full sun to light shade)
To discover more native plants for birds and other wildlife, check out Plants for Birds.
More About Land Stewardship at Bent of the River
The 700 acres of sustainably-managed habitat at Bent of the River Audubon Center is home to hundreds of wildlife species, including early successional birds of conservation concern such as Blue-winged Warblers, American Woodcock, Black-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Kingbird, Gray Catbird, Prairie Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow, Indigo Bunting, and Orchard Oriole. Our stewardship efforts focus on land management best-practices on a rotational basis to maintain a permanent array of early successional habitats. This represents one of the largest managed areas of this habitat type on protected land in Connecticut.
Powered by our team of staff, volunteers, and local and state partners, our bird banding and habitat monitoring programs provide data and outcome reporting that is critical to the development of conservation strategies, best-practice modeling, and policy creation and enforcement at local, state, and national levels. Bent of the River offers many ways for the public to get involved in these local conservation efforts—from Community Science opportunities to land management volunteering to spreading the word and speaking out about important issues.