For the Birds: Loving those berries

Photo by Chris Bosak A song sparrow eats berries at Dolce Center in Norwalk, Conn.
Photo by Chris Bosak A song sparrow eats berries at Dolce Center in Norwalk, Conn.

I had just discovered a new berry tree at work and thought to myself how great it would be to see the birds raid the tree when the berries ripened.

At the time, the majority of the berries were red with a few purple ones mixed in. It wouldn’t be long now, I figured, before they were all purple and the birds would be feasting on them.

About a week later, I went back to check out the tree and it was practically picked clean. Apparently, the berries ripened quicker than I thought they would, and the birds wasted no time in having their feast.

I missed the flurry of activity that had the tree stripped clean, but I did see a lone gray catbird fly in and out to grab a few of the remaining berries. At least I wasn’t completely shut out of the show.

I’m not sure what type of tree it was, but it was fairly low-growing, had a wide canopy for its size and was full of berries. At some point, before I made my return trip to the tree, a bunch of birds had raided it. I’m guessing it was either robins or cedar waxwings. I was lucky enough to catch a group of waxwings ravage another berry tree on the work property about a year ago.

Robins are the birds typically found eating berries, crab apples or other types of small fruit. It also could have been starlings, of course. Any number of other birds could have shown up individually or as a pair to grab a few of the berries as well. As I mentioned, I saw a catbird there. Based on the birds I’ve seen at work, I wouldn’t be surprised if house finches, house sparrows, song sparrows or cardinals paid that tree a visit as well.

It’s a little early for migrants to be passing through, but when they do, berries are a favorite food. Vireos, warblers, thrushes and tanagers will all be likely visitors to berry trees and bushes in September and October. I recall fondly the times I’ve been lucky enough to see migrants stop and eat berries. One of my favorite recollections is of a large flock of yellow-rumped warblers eating the light blue berries from a row of cedar trees.

It’s not all about the berries this time of year, of course. Flowers are going to seed and birds are taking full advantage. Keep an eye out for goldfinches on black-eyed Susans, coneflower, sunflowers and just about any other flower or grass that has gone to seed.

Planting trees and bushes that produce berries is a great way to attract and help out birds. Try to pick types that will ripen at different times of the year, from late spring and into winter. Pick native varieties of trees and bushes as well. That’s important on several levels.

We’re heading into an exciting time of year for birdwatching. Most of the birds that were born here this spring or summer are grown enough that they are foraging for their own food. The migrant passerines (songbirds) will be here soon enough as well. Keep an eye on those berry and fruit trees. You never know what you’ll find.

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