Fruit is a preferred food for many different birds, and as an excellent source of sugar, it is an essential energy source during summer, fall and winter, key seasons for breeding, migration and maintaining body heat in chilly temperatures. But which birds can you expect to visit your feeders if you offer different types of fruit?
Birds can eat many different types of fruit in many different conditions. All fruits that are suitable for human consumption are also nutritious for birds, and they will also eat other types of fruit that are not typical human foods, as well as damaged or overripe fruit that would not be good for humans. The most popular fruits birds eat include:
- Concord grapes
Depending on the bird species, the ripeness of the fruit and the type of fruit, birds might eat the flesh, sip the juice or both. Small fruits can even be swallowed whole, and birds will visit fruit trees before they are fully ripe and as long as there are a few fruits available after the prime harvest season. On farms and orchards, however, this can be a problem, since birds can easily damage crops before they are ripe enough to harvest. In bird-friendly backyards, however, fruit is a great choice for feeding birds because it does not leave as many hulls and wasted debris as most types of birdseed, and planting fruit trees, berry shrubs and other plants that produce fruit is a great way to feed birds on a budget.
Bird Species That Eat Fruit
There are many different birds that have at least a partially frugivorous diet and will eat fruit regularly. The most familiar backyard birds that will eat fruit include:
- American robin
- Baltimore oriole
- Black-capped chickadee
- Black-headed grosbeak
- Blue jay
- Bohemian waxwing
- Brown thrasher
- Bullock's oriole
- Cedar waxwing
- Eastern bluebird
- European starling
- Gray catbird
- House finch
- House wren
- Northern cardinal
- Northern flicker
- Northern mockingbird
- Purple finch
- Rose-breasted grosbeak
- Ruby-crowned kinglet
- Scarlet tanager
- Summer tanager
- Tufted titmouse
- Western tanager
While these birds will readily come to bird feeders for fruit, other thrushes, sparrows, tits, woodpeckers and towhees will also eat fruit. In tropical climates, hornbills, toucans, cassowaries and parrots also have a fruit-based diet.
Attracting Birds With Fruit
There are many ways to offer fruit as a bird food and attract a wide range of hungry species.
- Plant fruit trees for birds and fruit-producing berry bushes and shrubs to provide a natural, renewable source of fruit for birds to naturally forage. Ideally, choose native varieties that will be more recognizable to local and regional birds.
- Avoid or minimize pesticide and herbicide use near any fruit-producing plants for birds to avoid any unintended poisoning or toxic effects. If absolutely necessary, opt for organic options.
- Offer fresh or dried fruit cut into both large and small chunks or slices in open tray feeders or sprinkled on the ground. Fruit chunks can also be offered in a mesh bag or suet cage.
- Stick large chunks of fruit or fruit halves onto fruit spike feeders near other bird feeding stations. Many oriole feeders have a spike or other feature specifically to accommodate fruit.
- Freeze fruit whole or cut into chunks in the summer and fall to add to feeders in the winter for birds to enjoy when natural fruit sources are scarce. Local farmer's markets and produce department may be willing to offer older fruit that is still perfect for birds but less attractive to customers at deep discounts.
- Leave damaged or overripe fruit on trees and shrubs in the fall to provide an excellent natural energy source for migrating birds. If it is necessary to protect the trees from birds while some fruit is harvested, opt for nets around the branches you wish to protect while allowing birds to feed on other branches.
- Add bits of fruit to muffins or healthy bread recipes for birds, or add fruit to a custom suet recipe.
- Only offer as much fruit as birds will eat in a day or two to avoid spoiled fruit that may attract rodents or other unwanted pests. If the fruit is getting older and fermenting, it is less healthy for birds and should be offered sparingly.
- If birds do not seem interested in the available fruit, try a different variety that may appeal to their tastes more readily. Apples are the most popular and most universally accepted fruit to feed birds, and it is not necessary to peel or core the fruit before offering it to birds.
In addition to offering fruit to backyard birds, many fruit-eating birds will also sip nectar and eat jelly. Adding nectar feeders, nectar-rich flowers and jelly feeders to a backyard bird buffet can attract even more birds that will quickly learn to appreciate all the sources of fruit available.
Photo - Gray Catbird Eating Fruit Â© Linda Tanner