Eastern Cottonwood is an important food source for numerous insect species. The foliage is consumed by butterflies and moths, including Viceroy, Tiger Swallowtail, and Night-wandering Dagger. Long-horned beetles, aphids, leafhoppers, and the larvae of the poplar borer have also been known to feast on the foliage. These foliage feeders attract insectivorous birds, including pileated woodpeckers, Northern parula, yellow warblers, and Baltimore oriole. In times when other sources of food are scarce, the catkins and buds are consumed by avian visitors, such as the ruffed grouse, prairie chicken, and purple finch.
Birds and insects aren’t the only ones who benefit from Eastern Cottonwood; mammalian foragers do, too, including white-tailed deer, rabbits, squirrels, and beavers.