do birds eat winterberry berries

By the time winter officially arrives, the insects, seeds and other foods that birds have been dining on have become scarce. Many of us pick up the slack by feeding the birds, and they depend on our supplemental food to get them through lean times. In addition to buying bags of birdseed, consider adding a tree or shrub to your landscape that produces berries, one of the most nutritious foods birds can eat. Berries are usually full of sugar, and some are high in fat too, meaning they’re loaded with the calories birds need to keep their body temperatures up so they don’t freeze to death.

Most shrubs and trees produce fruit of some kind. What each of these plants has in common is that the fruit hangs on and ripens in the late fall and winter, when wildlife creatures have stripped other plants bare. And these living bird feeders don’t skimp on aesthetics; they are all attractive additions to the garden.

A holly that loses its leaves in the fall, winterberry is loved by humans and birds alike for the brilliant red berries that light up the winter landscape. Sure, cut some branches for decoration, but leave most for the birds that rely on them. Winterberry needs a male planted nearby for the female to produce berries. Also try yaupon holly (I. vomitoria).

Origin: Native to the eastern United StatesWhere it will grow: Hardy from -40 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (USDA zones 3 to 9; find your zone)Water requirement: Moist to wet soilLight requirement: Full sun to partial shadeMature size: 3 to 12 feet tall and wideAttracts: A wide variety of birds, including cedar waxwings, scrub jays, robins — even ducks and wild turkeys

Bayberry’s waxy gray berries are what the early-American settlers used to make candles with, so it’s no surprise that bayberry has the highest fat content of all berries. That makes it a terrific food for smaller birds, many of which shiver through the night as a way to keep warm, which requires a lot of energy. Bayberry needs male and female plants for berries. Also try Pacific wax myrtle (M. californica).

Origin: Native to eastern North AmericaWhere it will grow: Hardy from -40 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (zones 3 to 7)Water requirement: Dry to medium soilLight requirement: Full sun to partial shadeMature size: 5 to 10 feet tall and wideAttracts: Chickadees, woodpeckers, swallows, bluebirds, warblers and many others

Whether it’s for you or your feathered friends, you won’t go wrong with a viburnum. Many provide three seasons of interest; others are fragrant. Some are evergreen. These shrubs are all terrific garden plants, and quite a few are berry-producing machines. Also try highbush cranberry (V. edule).

Origin: Native to eastern North AmericaWhere it will grow: Hardy from -40 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (zones 3 to 8)Water requirement: Well-drained soilLight requirement: Full sun to partial shadeMature size: 3 to 5 feet tall and wideAttracts: All kinds of birds, including cardinals, mockingbirds, blue jays and catbirds

This shrub is native to the U.S. and Canada, and has great fall foliage and fruit that turns bright red in the winter. It’s called chokeberry because humans find the berries extremely bitter, birds less so. Also try black chokeberry (A. melanocarpa).

Origin: Native to eastern North AmericaWhere it will grow: Hardy from -30 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (zones 4 to 9)Water requirement: Needs well-drained soilLight requirement: Full sun to partial shadeMature size: 6 to 8 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wideAttracts: Grouse, cedar waxwings, thrushes, northern flickers and thrashers

The dogwood family includes both trees and shrubs, and the majority of them are gardenworthy — some for flowers; others for foliage or stem colors; still others for their graceful forms. This native dogwood produces white berries that birds adore, and when the leaves fall, red stems are revealed. Also try pagoda dogwood (C. alternifolia) and redtwig dogwood (C. sericea).

Origin: Native to southeastern Canada and the northeastern United StatesWhere it will grow: Hardy from -30 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (zones 4 to 8)Water requirement: Well-drained soilLight requirement: Full to partial shadeMature size: 10 to 15 feet tall and wideAttracts: Bobwhites, woodpeckers, sapsuckers, cardinals, grosbeaks, tanagers

We enjoy crabapples for their pink or white flowers in the spring; birds turn to its berries last, when other berries are gone. Crabapple fruit is quite bitter and needs a good amount of freezing and thawing before it is palatable to birds. There are too many crabapple varieties to count.

Where it will grow: Hardy from -30 degrees Fahrenheit to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (zones 4 to 8)Water requirement: Needs well-drained soilLight requirement: Full sunMature size: 8 feet to 30 feet and higher, depending on varietyAttracts: Bluebirds, robins, thrushes, cardinals, grosbeaks

Unsure of which berry-producing plant to choose? Your local landscape professional can advise you on whats the best fit for your lawn.

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Ornamental Benefits of Berries

Berries are beneficial to more than just birds and other wildlife. Additionally, they offer year-round advantages for your landscape in terms of form, color, and function.

By combining deciduous, semi-evergreen, and evergreen plants, you can create a color scheme that spans all four seasons. Deciduous shrubs need to flower every spring in order to produce berries. The white or pastel hues of the flowers contrast with the vibrant green of the new growth, adding a softness to the garden. Many of these shrubs continue to flower through the summer.

The leaves of shrubs such as native viburnums, staghorn sumac, and choke cherries change to warm yellows and reds in the fall. These shrubs provide much-needed color to a desolate landscape in the winter. The American beautyberry’s purple, beaded berries in the east and the white snowberry in the west provide a striking contrast to the winter’s browns and evergreens. The adaptable winterberry holly, which is indigenous to the eastern half of the United States, brightens your yard with brilliant red berry sprays during the holiday season.

Evergreen and semi-evergreen shrubs, such as juniper and bayberry, add texture and shape to your landscape long after your native flowering perennials have withered away. When grown as a border, they improve privacy and provide wind screening.

If you’re not sure which berry-producing plant is best for your lawn, your local landscape professional can offer you advice.

This shrub is native to the U. S. and Canada, boasting stunning autumnal foliage as well as winter-bright red fruit. The reason the berries are called chokeberries is that while birds find them less bitter than humans do Also try black chokeberry (A. melanocarpa).

Origin: Native to eastern North America; grows hardy in zones 4 through 9 at -30 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit; requires well-drained soil for growth; matures to 6 to 8 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide; attracts grouse, cedar waxwings, thrushes, northern flickers, and thrashers during the day.

By the time winter arrives officially, birds no longer have as much access to the insects, seeds, and other foods they have been eating. Since many of us fill in the gaps by feeding the birds, they rely on our extra food to help them get through hard times. Consider planting a tree or shrub in your landscape that yields berries, as they are one of the healthiest foods available to birds, in addition to purchasing bags of bird seed. Berries are rich in the calories birds need to maintain body temperature and prevent starvation because they are typically high in sugar and some are also high in fat.

We love crabapples for their springtime pink or white blossoms; when other berries are gone, birds go for its berries last. Because crabapple fruit is highly bitter, it must be frozen and thawed several times before birds will find it appetizing. There are too many crabapple varieties to count.

FAQ

Do cardinals like winterberries?

Common bird species that do not migrate, such as northern cardinals, woodpeckers and mockingbirds, depend on berrying shrubs in winter. In addition to providing winter food, berrying shrubs are multi-functional.

What animal eats winterberry?

The attractive bright red fruit of winterberry is eaten by small mammals and more than 48 species of birds. The leaves and stems of winterberry are not a preferred source of browse, but moose, whitetail deer, cottontail rabbits, and snowshoe hare do utilize this plant.

Do chickadees eat winterberries?

Berries are an important food source for winter birds such as the black-capped chickadee, cedar waxwings and cardinals. The berries’ bright showy colors naturally attract birds and help them conserve energy instead of foraging for other food sources.

Do birds like wintergreen berries?

Several species of birds consume Wintergreen, including Wild Turkey and Ring-necked Pheasant. Ruffed Grouse consume Wintergreen’s fruit, buds, and leaves.