Fall, Birds Adopt a Winter Diet
of Fruit and Berries
Helen Manson Andrews
Editors note: The following article was written by
Helen Manson Andrews and published in the LaGrange Ledger, Nov.
1, 1990. I hope you will enjoy this article as much as I did.
After a day of drenching rain it was nice to see a little sun..
As I walked along I heard the liquid, sweet warble of the Eastern
Bluebird and saw two beautiful males as they flew up into a tree
nearby. I continued on and saw a Catbird in shrubbery, some Yellow-rumped
Warblers, Song Sparrow and a few other birds. It seemed quiet,
as most birds don't sing much at this time of year.
On my way back I again heard the bluebirds and saw movement up
in a tree. And there were about eight bluebirds eating the blue
berries of the Virginia creeper. The vine has crept way up in the
tree and the five parted leaves were bright red and the ripe berries
a dark blue. The birds were enjoying this wonderful feast. Some
Yellow-rumped Warblers were feeding with them.
How quickly birds that are insect eaters from May through summer
adapt themselves to winter food.
The birds that cannot adapt to a winter diet of fruits, berries
and seeds have to move farther south to a warmer climate. But bluebirds
and robins can stay and live well if there is a good supply of
these winter foods.
Other wild fruits eaten by winter birds are bittersweet, bayberry,
sumac, poison ivy, wild cherry, holly, dogwood, hackberry, wild
grape, red cedar and buckthorn, as well as wild rose.
In fact, the wild multiflora rose is the main food source for
many wintering birds. The Mockingbird depends largely on these
tiny red fruits. They will stake out a multiflora rose hedge or
large bush and defend it as their own.
A stray wintering Catbird will also find this a good place to
winter with a ready food supply. The wandering Townsend's Solitaire
that spent most of the winter in eastern Dutchess last year (Editor's
note: 1989), seemed to be living on the black fruit of the
The bluebirds in the Virginia creeper were a treat. As I moved
on, four Wood Ducks flew up from the creek. It was a nice ending
to my walk.
Over Dutchess, October 2002
Originally published in the LaGrange
Ledger, November 1, 1990