Written by Kelsey Low

Why does the Arboretum get so many fall migrant birds? Because we have a lot of native plants! Migrating birds need to shelter in trees, find nectar from flowers, eat berries from shrubs, and pick insects from branches. The best way to attract migrants to your yard is to plant natives.


For example, starting in late August, hungry Ruby-throated Hummingbirds begin to gather in Houston to fatten up before heading south to Central America. They look for red, tube-shaped flowers like Turk’s cap, sage, and cardinal flower.

Photo credit Bill Buchanan

In September, Houston gets an influx of fruit-eating migrants like Eastern Kingbirds, Orchard Orioles, and Blue Grosbeaks. Probably our most striking berry-lover is the multicolored Painted Bunting. All of these birds need fruiting plants like beautyberry, mayhaw, yaupon holly, and sumac.

Photo credit NPS Staff

Painted Bunting
American Redstart

By early October we get a flurry of insect-eating birds like Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, vireos, and warblers like American Redstarts. These birds find the most insects on native trees and shrubs like oaks, hollies, and elms.

Photo credit Peter Wilton

Don’t forget our winter residents! Some birds arrive in late fall and stay with us through the winter, like White-throated Sparrows and American Goldfinches. Many eat the seeds of fall-blooming flowers like coreopsis and coneflowers.

Photo credit Tom Stovall

You can find all of these plants and more at our Fall Native Plant Sale this Friday and Saturday, October 5-6. Plant them this year and you’ll be ready to go for next year’s migration season!