Many fall and winter birds thrive on nuts and berries. They not only gorge on these rich foods through the autumn harvest, but also store them in clever ways to safeguard against the lean winter months. Filling your bird feeders with nuts and berries is a great way to feed a wide range of species and keep them coming to your feeders.
Nuts, Berries, and the Birds That Eat Them
Many of our favorite backyard birds take advantage of natural food sources, including nuts and berries. While most birds will nibble at any easily available food, the birds that routinely indulge in different types of nuts and berries include:
Some unusual birds may also eat nuts and berries, including warblers, wood ducks, and wild turkeys. Even feral parrots, where colonies are established, may visit feeders.
Not all birds, however, eat the same foods, and different nuts and berries will appeal to different species. Native plants will be the most popular, as they will be the most recognizable to resident birds. Furthermore, native plants will thrive in the local climate, soil conditions, and weather patterns, yielding the best harvests. Birders who don’t have the right plants in their yard can purchase nuts and berries to fill their feeders. Still, you should opt for foods the birds will more easily recognize. The best nuts and berries to offer birds include:
- Hickory nuts
- Pine nuts
- Macadamia nuts
Filling Feeders With Nuts and Berries
It’s easy to add these healthy, natural foods to feeders. Both nuts and berries can be added to open dish or tray feeders. Hopper or tube feeders with wide feeding ports can also accommodate these larger foods, or they can be added to broad wire mesh feeders.
Berries can be offered whole, though larger berries could be crushed or chopped to make them easier for smaller bills to handle. Sprigs of berries can also be added to feeders. Birds will happily pluck the treats off each branch.
Dried berries are another option, such as raisins, cranberries, and currants. Take care, however, not to offer too many berries at once, as they can rot and ferment quickly if they aren’t eaten right away.
Nuts are sturdier foods that will last longer in larger feeders. Whole nuts, shelled nuts, or nut pieces are all great to offer to birds in tray, dish, or mesh feeders. Nut butters are also great for birds and can be smeared on tree trunks for agile birds to nibble. Nuts can also mold, however, and should be kept as dry as possible to minimize spoilage and waste.
Planting Nuts and Berries for Birds
The easiest way to feed nuts and berries to birds is to do so without any feeders at all. Plant berry bushes and nut-producing trees and shrubs offer a natural, renewable food source birds will appreciate. They will happily forage for themselves.
See also: How to Plant the Perfect Birdseed Garden
In addition to selecting native plant varieties, take into account the soil quality, sunlight levels, and overall local climate. This will allow you to find plants that will do best with minimal care and maintenance. Choosing different types of nut- and berry-producing plants with different maturity, ripening, and harvest times will also ensure a more abundant, longer-lasting food supply. Plants that hold their berries or nuts well into the winter months will be especially valuable to provide a reliable winter food source for birds.
As the nuts and berries ripen throughout the summer and fall, allow them to fall to the ground and skip raking leaves. Ground-feeding birds such as quail, doves, towhees, and turkeys will happily scratch through the debris to find every tidbit. Any leftover foods may reseed and grow more plants for even more food in the future.
Nuts and Berries You Should Never Feed Birds
While birds will enjoy a wide range of nuts and berries, there are some treats you should never add to feeders. No nuts or berries with heavy salts, seasonings, or coatings are suitable for birds. Nor are any moldy or rotten foods of any kind. Candy, cookies, breads, and cakes with nuts and fruits are also unsuitable for birds are should not be added to feeders, as they contain too many other additives and ingredients that are not healthy for birds.
Nuts and berries are great foods to offer birds, and many different birds will enjoy these treats. By knowing which nuts and berries are the best choices and which birds will prefer them, birders can easily fill their feeders with these awesome autumn foods.