Feed Fruit and Berries

Attract waxwings this winter!

Many birds, such as catbirds, mockingbirds and robins, eat fruit and berries all summer long, while most other birds have a diet of insects and seeds. But strangely, lots of seed and insect eaters as well, start to crave a diet of fruit in preparation for migration.

Why do birds crave fruit? It seems that while the birds are storing lots of fat reserves for their long trip, a diet of fruit, with it’s concentrated amount of antioxidants, might also be needed to reduce the stress and inflammation that birds experience during their migration. Birds such as sparrows, thrushes and warblers that strictly eat seeds during the summer are some of the birds that suddenly switch to a fruit diet in the fall. A single bird can consume up to three times its weight in fruit in a single day! These birds are not accustomed to clinging to fruit and berry bushes and their beaks are not designed to eat fruit, so they can appear rather comical while they’re gathering these foods!

What can you do to help birds during fall migration? Offering nourishing fruits and berries, especially during late summer and fall months is one way you can help our migrating birds. Fruits and berries to offer can be apples, banana slices, blueberries, cherries, pears, strawberries and/or watermelon pieces, to name just a few. All of these fruits can be served on a platform feeder or a specific fruit feeder, often designed to keep the food fresh while giving birds easy access to the food.

And planting fruit and berry bushes for the birds is extremely helpful also. Apple trees, crabapple trees, blueberry bushes, chokecherries, winterberry, etc. all can help birds prior to their migration, as well as provide important nourishment during their stopovers on their way south. Just remember to be sure to plant native species! This way you can make sure you are not introducing a non-native, invasive plant to your area. Also, many non-native fruits and berries do not provide the correct degree of sugars, antioxidants, etc. that our native birds have adapted to.

In the video below, the type of tree is not identified, but it may be a black cherry tree, which are common in North America. It’s very obvious that the cardinals and other birds on the tree are ravenous for its berries!

Here’s a quick summary:

  • Catbirds, mockingbirds and robins eat fruit all summer long
  • Sparrows, thrushes and warblers only eat fruit during fall migration
  • Offer migrating birds berries and fruits during the late summer and fall months
  • Offer fruit like apples, banana slices, blueberries, cherries, pears, strawberries and watermelon pieces
  • Fruit can be served in any platform feeder (deck, ground or hanging feeders)
  • Plant native fruit trees and plants for the correct amount of sugars and antioxidants our native birds have adapted to
  • For North America, these fruit trees include apple trees, crabapple trees, blueberry bushes, chokecherries, winterberry, etc.

Helping fruit-loving birds during fall migration is easy and may attract more birds with a little extra planning…Happy Birding!

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