Food for birds: Berries

Many shrubs and trees provide fruit in every season. Here are just a few:

Chickadee eating bayberries ©Janet AllenChickadee eating bayberries

One of the bushes I most enjoy is Northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica). I not only like the looks of the plant—the word "fluffy" always comes to my mind—but I also like seeing the birds enjoying the berries. Chickadees and catbirds are especially fond of them. These native berries have a very high fat content and so are very nutritious for birds.

Bayberry is dioecious—in other words, plants are either male or female. The females, of course, have the berries, so we want mostly female plants. Since the plants aren't generally labeled as male or female, I've decided the best time to buy them is in the fall when you can actually see berries on the females. Our one male pollinates our five females.

Serviceberries (Amelanchier canadensis) ©Janet AllenRobins love serviceberries

Birds LOVE serviceberries (Amelanchier canadensis), especially the catbirds and robins. They can hardly wait for them to ripen.

Cedar waxwing eating a serviceberry ©Janet Allen
Cedar waxwing eating a serviceberry

Cedar waxwings love them, too.

We grow a number of species: Shadblow (A. canadensis), saskatoon (A. alnifolia), Allegheny (A. laevis), and a naturally-occurring hybrid of A. laevis and A. arborea, the apple serviceberry (A. x grandiflora).

Catbird eating pagoda dogwood berries ©Janet Allen
Catbird eating pagoda dogwood berries

Dogwood berries are another bird favorite. We have a variety of dogwoods: gray dogwood, silky dogwood, red twig dogwood, and (my favorite) pagoda dogwood.

One nice thing is that the berries of the various species ripen at different times, so they offer a continuous banquet.

Cedar waxwing on elderberries ©Janet AllenCedar waxwing on elderberries

This cedar waxwing is eyeing some elderberries (Sambucus canadensis).

Waxwings also love other berries, such as pagoda dogwood and, of course, juniper berries—in other words, cedar berries from the Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana).

Wild strawberry ©Janet Allen
A robin eating a wild strawberry

I had planted a few wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana) in the past, not knowing how much they would spread. They don't seem to be a problem, though, and the robin has enjoyed them.

He seems to attack them in the same way as he attacks a worm: tossing it repeatedly as he eats a bit each time.

Forbidden fruit

Robin and blueberries ©Janet Allen
Robin getting some blueberries

We protect our blueberries by creating a temporary "house" for our berries, but it's pretty tempting to birds, who can see there's good stuff inside.

We monitor it closely since a few birds will get in this cage and aren't smart enough to get out.

More photos of the cage are at Our Edible Garden website.