are holly berries poisonous to birds

Are Holly Berries Poisonous to Humans & Animals?

We all adore those glossy berries for fall and winter interest, and holly bushes are gorgeous year-round favorites for specimens and hedges, plus winter interest and home décor! They make excellent cover and protection plants for the birds.

Superior hedges and seclusion, the Holly offers screening, looks fantastic when clipped formally or allowed to grow tidy and organically, and many have spines that deter intruders!

Above all, though, birds love Holly berries! Cedar Waxwings, Swallows, Bluebirds, Robins, Chickadees, Finches, and Cardinals will all appreciate what you have planted for them, depending on where you live. You’ll get lots of visitors if you add a few bird feeders! Holly plants also make great bird shelters!

Holly berries are safe for the birds that eat them, so make sure to include them in your backyard wildlife refuge and habitat for birds! But should you be concerned about your safety, the safety of your family, or the safety of your pets?

Holly plants come in two varieties: the deciduous variety, which sheds its leaves in the fall, and the broadleaf evergreen type.

Additionally, the majority of holly plants have distinct male and female plants; only the female plants will bear berries. You’ll enjoy the springtime display, and pollinators will go crazy over the white blooms on both male and female plants!

The berries that follow are really showy; most of the varieties bear red fruits, but there are also varieties that are orange, blue, black, yellow, or white! Pollination and fruiting require a male shrub planted close to a female shrub.

The plants are highly desirable and attractive to wildlife, people, and children because of their spectacular fruit production. As holly branches don’t contain any dust, pollen, or fragrances, they make the ideal indoor décor for allergy sufferers!

The berries may dry out and fall off once indoors, leaving them accessible for kids or pets to locate and taste.

When these plants are grown outdoors, the fruit may need to hang on and possibly even go through a freeze-thaw cycle in order for the birds to find it more appetizing. In just a few days or less, a flock of Cedar Waxwings may fly through your yard and eat every last bit of fruit from a tree.

It’s becoming common practice to create backyard wildlife habitats in order to draw in more migratory birds and songbirds and to make the landscape more visually appealing!

What berries do birds eat?

Many wild birds enjoy holly berries despite the fact that they are toxic to some other animals; you can read more about that here. The prickly foliage of holly provides a safe haven for birds to nest, feed, and rest, which is another benefit that attracts wild birds to the plant.

Ground nesting birds will eat the fallen fruit! The wild cherry is most noticeable in the spring when its foliage is covered in gorgeous white flowers. The bright red cherries that grow later are delicious!

Elderberries are beloved by both domestic and avian species, and their juicy purple berries are particularly tasty to wild birds.

Viburnum opulus, sometimes called the Guelder Rose, is a bright, eye-catching plant native to the United Kingdom that bears bright red berries on bare stems in the winter. Wild birds, especially thrushes and bullfinches, adore these berries!

The hawthorn plant yields berries that are an intense shade of red. Although they are most frequently found from September to November, over 300 different species of insects, including blackbirds and redwings, can enjoy them until January.

Wild birds, such as the thrush and the dunnock, enjoy the tiny, black-blue berries of the blackthorn plant as late as December. The berries are only about 1 centimeter across.

Although berries are an excellent food source for wild birds, particularly during the winter, you can also contribute to the health of your local ecosystem by providing wild birds with food.

Given that birds enjoy berries so much, why not give them some delectable berry-flavored suet? Rich in calories and essential nutrients, berry-flavored suet is especially well-suited for winter feeding.

Go visit our website right now to see the extensive range of feed alternatives that Really Wild Bird Food provides!

Reach out and contact us today! A member of our team will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have about bird feeds, what feeds to use to attract certain birds, how to best support your local ecosystem in the winter, or anything else!

Are Holly Berries Poisonous to Humans?

The berries of all Ilex species are said to be toxic if consumed in large enough quantities, according to a report by Dick Bir from North Carolina State University and the book “Plants That Poison” (and quantity is the key here)

The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Together with certain saponic glycosides, illicin is the main toxic ingredient in holly berries. Additionally, holly contains theobromine, an alkaloid that is similar to caffeine and is present in chocolate. One or two berries won’t hurt you, though they can irritate your stomach; however, ten to fifteen Holly berries can cause serious digestive problems.

Don’t panic, though, as fatalities from consuming holly berries or leaves are still unheard of. There are poisonous properties, but they are frequently overstated. If significant amounts of the berries have been consumed, medical intervention should be sought as soon as possible, along with the induction of vomiting and the use of activated charcoal!

When handling these plants, topical or skin reactions are usually not observed (though gloves are advised due to the spines).

Holly berries are not thought to be very toxic, but small children, people with compromised immune systems, and those who are more vulnerable should be warned about these visually appealing berries.

Humans cannot taste any part of the plant, so most people would not be interested in eating more after the initial taste. Common drinks, condiments, and common household chemicals are probably far more of a threat to your health than Hollies in the outdoors.

  • Watch kids and pets around these shrubs
  • Create a buffer zone with barrier plants between the plants and small hands.
  • Keep food and drink tables away from these shrubs in case
  • Shear the shrubs after flowering to remove future fruit
  • Plant male-only shrubs or non-fruiting male clones
  • Cut berry stems should be kept out of children’s reach and away from food.


Do any animals eat holly berries?

But most of all, Holly berries are coveted by Birds! Depending upon where you live, Cedar Waxwings, Swallows, Bluebirds, Robins, Chickadees, Finches, and Cardinals will enjoy what you have planted for them.

How do I keep birds from eating my holly berries?

1. Scare Tactics: Hang shiny objects like aluminum foil strips, old CDs, or reflective tape near the berry plants. The sunlight reflecting off these items can deter birds. You can also use scarecrows or even a motion-activated sprinkler system to startle and deter both birds and slugs.

Are holly berries poisonous?

Holly is an evergreen shrub that can grow to be a tree. The leaves are stiff with sharp points and may be edged with white. The berries are hard and bright red. Eating more than three holly berries can cause severe and prolonged nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, as well as drowsiness.

Do cardinals eat holly berries?

They mostly feed their nestlings soft bodied insects, but I once saw a female cardinal feeding nestlings holly berries. It was a REAL early nest, in late winter, too early, and there weren’t enough insects yet.