Sep 15, 2021 | Featured Web Article

Fall Tip: Save Your Summer Berries for Winter

Looking for a great way to attract birds in the winter? Try freezing wild berries and offering them at your feeding stations during the winter months.
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This has been one of the best fruit-growing years I can remember. The natural crop of berries and other fruits should sustain our wild birds well into the winter. Everywhere I look on my farm there are wild cherries, grapes, pokeweed, persimmons, dogwoods, and wild apples waiting to be eaten.

The abundance of wild-growing fruits reminds me of a trick a savvy photographer friend once shared with me. The late John Trott was a wonderful naturalist, writer, photographer, and teacher—and former contributing photographer to Bird Watcher's Digest—who lived in northern Virginia. When age and weather made it difficult for him to go afield to photograph birds, John would bring the birds close to his house. One of his most successful methods for attracting birds was to offer them foods in winter that they could not find naturally at that season. In fall, John would gather wild grapes, pokeweed berries, American bitterweet, and sumac fruits and freeze them in plastic storage bags. Late in the winter, these fruits, placed near his regular feeding station, would lure hermit thrushes, eastern bluebirds, and American robins close enough for John to photograph. Other species that would sample the fruits included northern mockingbirds, red-headed woodpeckers, yellow-rumped warblers, and over-wintering gray catbirds and brown thrashers.

In my experience, although store-bought fruits such as seedless red grapes and oranges may go largely untouched by wild birds in winter, naturally occurring fruits such as wild grapes and pokeweed berries rarely go unnoticed. While the weather is still fairly mild (and before our first heavy frost), I fill a few bags of grapes and pokeweed and save them in the freezer for the birds. I'll put them out of the freezer in late January or February when I see that the natural food supply is depleted.



About Bill Thompson, III

Bill Thompson, III, was the team captain for Watching Backyard Birds from its inception 23 years ago through his death on March 25, 2019. So much of what he wrote is timeless and remains informative, helpful, and inspiring.

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  • I’ve been enjoying goldfinches eating coneflower/ echinacea seeds in my new pollinator garden! I will leave the plants out all winter for them if the seeds keep that long? Or should I deadhead and put them in a dry area? Im in CT and thought they migrated, but didn’t know they put in winter coats! What do they eat in winter without bird feeders?
    by Anne Sheffield, Sat, 04 Sep 2021
  • Hi Gary, I will pass your question along to Birdsquatch next time I see him. He knows infinitely more about nocturnal wildlife than I do. Where do you live? That's pretty important in figuring out the answer. But the thief could be raccoons, deer, or flying squirrels. Do you live in the woods? Are there trees near your feeder, or must the culprit climb a shepherd's hook or pole? Dawn Hewitt, Watching Backyard Birds
    by Dawn Hewitt, Mon, 30 Aug 2021
  • This breaks my heart. God strengthen your spirit and comfort your heart.I am fortunate to be taking a vacation next month, hopefully before sky high inflation hits and I can no longer afford it.
    by Ironweeds, Fri, 27 Aug 2021
  • What is emptying my jelly feeder overnight.
    by Gary Vandervest, Wed, 25 Aug 2021
  • Thank you, Dawn. I'm close enough to Ohio (Ann Arbor, Michigan) that I went ahead and took my tubes down and scoured clean all my bird baths. I won't put up my tubes this winter, just my trays and safflower only just to keep the bullies away for a while.
    by Pat Moore, Mon, 09 Aug 2021