The Birch Tree – Our Informative, Fact-Filled Local Guide

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From its sap that is consumed by woodpeckers and other birds to the twigs and bark that make for excellent deer browse, the humble birch tree can be one of the best food sources for backyard wildlife.

According to the Kaufman Field Guide to Nature of the Midwest, there are 21 species in the birch family in the Midwest region alone.

Kaufman Field Guide To Nature Of The Midwest (Kaufman Field Guides)
  • Kaufman, Kenn (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 416 Pages - 05/05/2015 (Publication Date) - Mariner Books (Publisher)

Last update on 2023-02-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Britannica states that there are about 40 species in the family across cooler regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Common ones include the yellow birch, paper birch, and river birch.

When talking about birch trees, the first one to come to mind for Canadians and residents of the northern United States might be the beautiful white bark of a paper birch, which peels off like sheets of paper, as its name suggests.

River birch trees are also familiar from the southern United States up through the Northeast. They’re trees you might be accustomed to seeing along river beds and in swamps.

Yellow birch flourishes throughout the American Northeast, Appalachian states, and upper Midwest of Michigan, Wisconsin, and northern Minnesota.

All of these trees, and other types of birch trees, can be very useful to a broad spectrum of wildlife species.

What Wildlife Benefits From Birch Trees?

Sapsuckers, unsurprisingly, are one bird that loves the nutritious sap that birch trees produce. There are four sapsucker species in North America: red-naped, yellow-bellied, red-breasted, and Williamson’s sapsuckers.

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are spread across the eastern United States and Canada, spending their summers in the north before migrating to southern states in the winter. The other three sapsucker species are native to certain areas of the American West.

Sapsuckers drill holes into trees such as birches to access the sap, which in turn provides food for other species like hummingbirds and nuthatches.

Birds like nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, towhees, and finches are among those that feed on the seeds of river birch, according to Audubon North Carolina.

Residents of northern states or certain Appalachian regions will also likely be familiar with the ruffed grouse. Sometimes nicknamed the birch partridge, these birds feed on buds, seeds, and catkins of birch trees, USDA Forester Samuel Shaw wrote in a 1969 report.

Shaw also reported that beavers, porcupines, moose, and snowshoe hares feed on birch twigs or bark, making these trees an important food source.

In fact, at the time of the report, he stated that birch twigs, including paper and yellow birch, comprised just seven percent of the total twigs produced in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest, but they made up 28 percent of the twigs browsed, indicating that the deer prefer bird twigs to other trees.

Not everyone loves deer in their backyards, as they can wreak havoc on flower gardens. But, if you are among those that enjoy seeing all types of wildlife, birch trees can provide a great food source to an abundance of species.

Birch Tree

Frequently Asked Questions

What Animals Benefit From Birch Trees?

Birch trees benefit all kinds of wildlife, including many different bird and mammal species.

Animals like deer browse on birch twigs, hares and porcupines eat the bark, and birds drink the sap that flows from the trees after a sapsucker drills into one.

Are Birch Trees Good for Birds?

Birch trees are excellent for birds. In addition to the nutritious sap that provides food to sapsuckers and hummingbirds, lots of birds also eat the seeds and buds of birch trees.

Should You Plant a Birch Tree?

Planting a birch tree in your yard can be a great way to provide food for wildlife in your backyard, and birch trees are generally very pleasant to look at.

Like any plant, trees included, you should do some research before purchasing and planting one near you, as not every type of tree thrives in every location.

Consider your soil attributes, climate, and more before planting any tree.

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Jacob Swanson

Jacob Swanson is a writer and wildlife photographer born and raised in Wisconsin and currently based in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Since graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, his work has appeared in over a dozen different web and print outlets. In his free time, he’s on a personal quest to visit every U.S. national park and see as many wildlife species as possible. His favorite birds are whooping and sandhill cranes.