Once insects and other summer foods are gone, birds begin eating more fruit. That explains the flocks of robins now gorging on the small fruits still hanging from my flowering crab apple and mountain ash trees. Both have persistent fruits, fruits that last into fall and winter. They will lure a horde of varied birds, including marauding bands of cedar waxwings, with their Zorro-like black masks and wings tipped with red.
Depending on your location and the availability of berries – by “berry” I mean any small, fleshy fruit – you may entice dozens of bird species. Bluebirds, blue jays, catbirds, chickadees, finches, grosbeaks, mockingbirds, northern cardinals, orioles, phoebes, tanagers, vireos, warblers, and woodpeckers are just a few of the birds that turn to eating fruit when the mercury drops.
I have my own fruit trees and shrubs: 3 apple, 2 pear, 2 blueberry, 2 raspberry, 3 aronia and 2 cherry. No partridge in any of them. Yet. For the birds I have a crab apple and june berry that they are welcome to. There are also many varied perennials. I had planned to add some Lonicera this year to attract hummingbirds. I have a Trumpet vine that is still a year or so away from producing, hopefully, copious trumpets. Reading this article, I've decided, at least, to also add an arrowwood viburnum.
Most birds eat an array of berries, and most plants attract an array of birds. Dogwoods alone attract nearly 100 bird species, as do sumacs.
Yes, probably another dogwood or two as well. Have a small one now.
The experts at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in New York (www.birds.cornell.edu) recommend choosing native plants, which have coevolved with native wildlife. They are the most appealing to the birds living in and migrating through your neighborhood.
Shout out to Fiddlehead Creek Nursery if anyone local stumbles in here.
Better look for some Mountain Ash, too.
You can’t add too many fruiting plants to your garden, but birds can eat too much fruit, it seems. Drunken birds are an oft-reported sight in winter when fruits may ferment. It’s common enough that in 2014 officials in Canada’s Yukon had to set up “drunk tanks” for waxwings that overindulged on the red berries of mountain ashes.