The Love of Nature.

Winter Berries.

When winters chills arrive, and the trees have shed their autumn finery, hardship befalls our feathered friends. As the fruits of the trees have long gone and the ground is frozen, life becomes rather difficult for insect and the berry eating birds.


There are so many species of birds that remain to struggle through the harsh conditions that winter brings with it. To supplement whatever other food these birds find, the birder can still play a small part. In the fall, when the shrubs and the trees are laden with their bounty, pick a bag or two of the berries for later use. If, in our case they are from a mountain ash tree, keep the bunches of berries intact. Others may have to be picked individually. Store the berries in the freezer till winter arrives. For those that feed the birds through the winter this is an great addition to the foods that are available in the stores. When the Robins look rather sad, you can give them a great boost with a few berries from the freezer.


Securing a small branch on the deck or in a place where you can observe the birds gives you a starting point. You can secure these bunches of berries to this branch for the birds to pull off as in the wild. These bunches of berries need to be secured so that the birds can just pull them off. We secured ours with the grocery bag ties that were otherwise discarded. Other ways can be used to spread the berries about. Loose berries can be placed on the seed table with the other foods, or placed in a dish. These winter berries may also give you an opportunity to see birds at your feeding station that otherwise may not visit. The Hermit thrush is probably one of them as it seems to avoid the seed banquet. This type of set up also gives you the opportunity to get some great photographs of the birds in a natural setting. Crop the berries off the picture, in some cases zoom in a little more.


The Spotted towhee, although it enjoys sunflower seeds, still has a fancy for these red berries. They are also partial to peanuts and the suet mixtures put out for the woodpeckers. These berries can be secured to shrubbery and when the snow lies on the ground are a real welcome sight. They are particularly welcome if the seed tables are covered by a fresh blanket of snow. A light weight table that can be moved into a more protected area in the worst of the weather can be very convenient at this time of year. Simply moving it under the eaves will help to keep the seeds dry, placed near a window also lets you see the birds close up.


Another visitor that will find the berries a most enjoyable sight is the Varied thrush. Many people miss seeing this bird in the wild as it is usually in with a flock of robins. Although it will use the seed table, it still finds time to visit the berry tree hanging there. As with the Robins and the Towhees, the males have darker plumage, it’s always nice to know if you have both visiting your dining area. As the berries quickly disappear, hang out another bunch or two, in the worst days of winter, the Robins can really go wild while waiting for them to be replaced. You may also attract other birds, just be patient and you will be rewarded for your efforts.