Icon - Arrow LeftAn icon we use to indicate a rightwards action. Icon - Arrow RightAn icon we use to indicate a leftwards action. Icon - External LinkAn icon we use to indicate a button link is external. Icon - MessageThe icon we use to represent an email action. Icon - Down ChevronUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - CloseUsed to indicate a close action. Icon - Dropdown ArrowUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - Location PinUsed to showcase a location on a map. Icon - Zoom OutUsed to indicate a zoom out action on a map. Icon - Zoom InUsed to indicate a zoom in action on a map. Icon - SearchUsed to indicate a search action. Icon - EmailUsed to indicate an emai action. Icon - FacebookFacebooks brand mark for use in social sharing icons. flipboard Icon - InstagramInstagrams brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - PinterestPinterests brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - TwitterTwitters brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - Check MarkA check mark for checkbox buttons.
You are reading

A Winter Berry Garden to Feed Birds


A Winter Berry Garden to Feed Birds

January 28, 2022

During one of New England’s recent snow storms, I witnessed a minor miracle of Nature: a robin convention in my yard.

Despite their reputation as “harbingers of spring,” robins don’t necessarily go away in the winter. But they can be very elusive. Roosting in large numbers, high in the trees, they won’t come down for your seeds. If you want robins to flock to your snowbound yard, you need to plant a winter berry garden.

Photography by Justine Hand, except where noted.

Above: Unlike summer, when robins spread out in breeding pairs, in winter robins flock together in large groups call “conventions.” In some parts of the country, these conventions have been known to include hundreds or even thousands of birds! And as in the famed Hitchcock movie, when a convention descends on your yard, the effect is thrilling.
Above: Despite the wind and snow, this little robin remains a cozy 104 degrees under those fluffed up feathers. His recent meal of berries from my Burning Bush will also help him generate the energy he needs to stay warm. (NB: This burning bush, an invasive which I inherited with the house, has now been replaced by two winterberries, a chokecherry, and a beautyberry.)
Above: With their favorite food source–worms, of course–beneath the frozen ground, the winter robins turn vegetarian. Of course all the sweet berries get eaten in the summer and fall, leaving only bitter fruits like these crabapples or the rose hips below. No need to pity the poor robin though, because with each cycle of freezing and thawing, these berries become increasingly sweet.
Above: In addition to these rose hips, the robins in my yard ate burning bush berries, crabapples, and winterberries.
Above: You may notice that your winter robins look a bit different. I thought this was just a winter coat. But my stepfather, an ornithologist, informed me that these are probably from Canada. (I guess snowy New England in south to some.)
Above: Last fall I used these bayberries to make candles, but winter robins prefer to eat them.
Above: Of course, robins aren’t the only birds that enjoy a winter fruit snack. Here a cedar waxwing bulks up on juniper berries. Photograph via The Lake Today.
Above: Mountain Ash is another robin favorite that also adds color and texture to a winter garden. Others include Hawthorne, chokecherry, juniper, and red cedar. Photograph by Joe Schreiber.

More on feeding birds:

N.B.: This post is an update; it was first published December 2017.

(Visited 489 times, 1 visits today)
You need to login or register to view and manage your bookmarks.

Product summary  

Have a Question or Comment About This Post?

Join the conversation