Fruit is a fantastic source of nutrition for birds and many birds have learned how to exploit it. In cooler parts of the world, like in the UK, fruit tends to be a seasonal bounty and some of these birds will alternate their diets to seeds when fruit isn’t available. You can help attract these birds — like blackcaps, blackbirds, Thrushes and some migrant birds like Waxings — to your garden by creating a fruit-eating haven, just do these things.
Why attract and support these birds?
It would be easy enough for me to say, “well because they are wonderful” but actually it is more than that, they need us too. Lots of factors have led to a decline in fruity offerings for our fruit-eating birds and although they can change their diets between insects and seeds, it is important for these birds to have the nutrition that berries and fruits offer them.
Loss of habitat is a key factor, changes in our countryside and agriculture mean that many of the native berrying shrubs have been destroyed, particularly in the cases where hedgerows have been removed from farm boundaries. Bird numbers are often affected because of this and we see the problems more prevalent in colder winters like the January-March of 2018.
Lack of pollinators is also a problem, we know there is a Bee decline in the UK and we need to do more about it. Having a loss of pollinators in a year can cause a poor fruit year. Some years there will be considerably less fruit than other years, this is mainly caused from lack of pollination but also from bad whether where blossom is damaged.
Birds will help your gardens flourish
Birds and fruit trees work hand in hand. The berries on the trees offer nutrients fo these birds; lots of starchy, sugary carbohydrates that the birds need. They also have a high proportion of vitamins that birds can’t always get elsewhere. In return, the trees continue to flourish from the birds depositing the seeds in their droppings. It is a win-win situation.
Berries on the trees are not available all year around though and sometimes it can be tough between summer end and midwinter to find the berries that the birds need.
Choose plants that offer berries for a longer time
A key to helping the birds in your garden have access to berries for longer is making sure the plants you offer them produce berries at different stages and for different times.
If you were to plant a Guelder Rose for instance the fruit is quite short-lived, it needs to be eaten and then it is gone, this can be good for birds like Starlings that descend onto the fruits and eat the lot in a matter of hours but it means that there isn’t a lot of fruit the rest of the time.
Pair a Guelder Rose with a Holly Bush that continues to keep fruit for much longer periods and you really are supporting the birds.
Choose a range of plants that can offer a long period of fruit production, or plant them so that the fruit comings to fruition in succession. Having early producing fruit bushes like Strawberries and Currants are just as important as those that come around a little later, this ensures that your garden can accommodate the birds in your garden.
There are some great plants for fruit-eating birds, that are beautiful too. It doesn’t matter too much on the size of your garden, obviously if you have a large couple of acres add fruits trees as well as shrubs, but smaller gardens can still sustain a few varieties.
Try adding a few of these plants:
- Elderberries — they produce berries in midsummer and blackbirds love them
- Wild Strawberries
- Rowan Berries
- Bramble — not an obvious choice to plant, but if you have this in the garden don’t strip it back completely, keep some areas for the birds to eat
Supplementary Fruit Feeding
You can also supplement their diets with fruit offerings. Fruit-eating birds need the vitamins that berries offer; so adding things like chopped apples, raisins and sultanas can really help the birds.
You can also choose specialist foods that have fruit in them too. Our Robin & Friends mix for example is packed with 20% fruit including Cranberries that offer lots of nutrients and vitamins.