Nature on our Doorsteps: Berries for the birds

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

Since September, birds have been feasting on the store of berries in our hedgerows, gardens and parks. 

Elderberries are usually the first to go in early autumn, being a favourite of the Blackbird. 

Octobers Rowan berries have mostly been devoured by now 1

October's Rowan berries have mostly been devoured by now

Throughout the rest of autumn and winter, Hawthorn, Rowan, and Whitebeam berries, as well as sloes and Rose hips are picked clean.

Holly berries are often left until last, which is why we mostly associate them with Christmas time. 

Blackbirds, thrushes, starlings, and wood pigeons all make good use of this wonderful offering. 

As the winter progresses, competition for berries increases with the arrival of migrating birds like fieldfares, redwings, and waxwings. 

These birds escape the harsher snowy winters of northern and eastern Europe, flocking to the milder climate of Ireland and Britain.

Thrushes Blackbirds Redwings and Fieldfare enjoy Wild Rose hips 1

Thrushes, Blackbirds, Redwings and Fieldfare enjoy Wild Rose hips

 

These visitors make short work of any berries missed by the local birds. 

In January and February when most hedgerow fruits are long gone, Ivy berries fill the ‘hungry gap’ until springtime when insects become available once again. 

We can help the birds in winter by planting trees and shrubs in our gardens that produce plenty of berries. 

Shrubs like Cotoneaster, Berberis and Pyracantha, and climbers like Honeysuckle, not only produce insect-friendly flowers but they also produce plenty of winter berries that the birds will welcome.  

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