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A much-publicized superfood for humans, blueberries are packed with health-boosting antioxidants and vital vitamins. As they are a relatively easy crop to grow in your own backyard, you might be wondering if blueberries are safe for birds to eat.
We’ll be taking a look at whether blueberries have health benefits for birds too, and if so, which species are particularly partial to these sweet juicy fruits. Read on to learn more!
Blueberries are safe and healthy for birds to eat, although this doesn’t mean that all visitors to your garden will be fighting over them. Certain birds regularly eat berries as part of their natural diet, and will enjoy the variety on offer, while others won’t be tempted in the slightest!
Known to be high in vitamins and antioxidants, blueberries offer healthy benefits to a bird’s digestive, cardiovascular, and immune systems. Blueberries are a particularly useful food source in late summer for birds about to embark on their fall migrations, with their natural sugars providing all-important energy to build their strength reserves.
To learn more about which birds will come flocking to your backyard blueberry bushes and which species will turn a blind eye, keep reading!
Pictured: A Robin. Robins are known to be big fans of blueberries and benefit from the energy and moisture they provide
We’ve heard health gurus rave about the beneficial properties of blueberries to humans for decades, but it appears that these superfruits can offer multiple advantages to the health of birds too.
Low in sugar and rich in moisture, blueberries help birds to stay hydrated, particularly in summer, and in settings where there is little or limited access to drinking water.
Blueberries are an ideal size for hungry birds, as they are small soft and easy to eat. They are a perfect size for many birds to swallow whole, or can also be savored with smaller birds pecking or nibbling at a whole berry.
Blueberries are rich in many essential vitamins and nutrients needed by birds to maintain optimum health levels. They are packed with vitamin B6, which is required by the processes in their bodies that turn foods into energy. Blueberries are also high in vitamin C, which is essential for a bird’s properly functioning immune system and plays a vital role in collagen synthesis, which promotes healthy joints, skin and eyes.
Vitamin K is another important component in blueberries, needed for blood coagulation processes that help maintain a healthy circulatory system and build strong bones. They are also rich in antioxidants, minerals, fiber, and potassium and are low in calories.
Few, if any, birds could survive on a diet of blueberries alone, as a more balanced approach to food is needed, including proteins, particularly when molting, and calcium for supporting strong bones. Berries are an important supplementary food, but cannot meet all of a bird’s health needs alone.
Pictured: A House Finch. Few, if any, birds could survive on a diet of blueberries alone, as a more balanced approach to food is needed
Many birds will be drawn to blueberry bushes in fruiting season and will pluck ripe and overripe berries directly from the plant, often knocking off unripe fruits in the process.
Certain bird species are known to find blueberries, particularly irresistible, including European Starlings. Once they have discovered a berry bush in its prime, word will quickly get out and sizable flocks of starlings will descend, rapidly working to strip the plant of all its ripe fruit. They usually swallow berries whole, puncturing those that are unripe with their claws as they scan for the juiciest fruits.
American Robins are also known as blueberry fans, arriving singly to gardens and orchards for a quick snack in between foraging for their other preferred source of food, earthworms.
Cedar Waxwings are also well-known fans of any berries and will seek out blueberry patches in flocks, taking the fruit directly from the plants and swallowing it whole.
Pictured: An American Robin. American Robins are also known as blueberry fans arriving singly to gardens and orchards for a quick snack
Pictured: A Cedar Waxwing. Cedar Waxwings are also well-known fans of any berries and will seek out blueberry patches in flocks
Gray Cowbirds and Eastern Bluebirds are both known to seek out blueberry bushes in preference to other native fruits and will take berries from the plants directly, as well as from the ground and from backyard feeders.
Blackbirds are particularly partial to any windfall fruits, including grapes, berries, and cherries, and feed on the ground, pecking into the berry until they pierce it and open up the flesh.
Even birds with diets in which fruit does not normally figure hugely may be spotted visiting blueberry bushes ahead of fall migration, including Sparrows, House Finches, and Warblers. They are observed to peck at berries in quick succession, puncturing the fruits and enjoying the juicy insides before moving on to the next ripe berry.
Pet birds are also fond of the sweetness fresh blueberries provide, and they are a favorite treat for Parrots, Canaries, and Parakeets, and also a healthy option as their sugar content is lower than that of many other fruits.
The Gray Cowbird and Eastern Bluebird (pictured) are both known to seek out blueberry bushes in preference to other native fruits
Pictured: A Female Blackbird. Blackbirds are particularly partial to any windfall fruits, including grapes, berries, and cherries
A fresh supply of berries in your yard may attract a number of smaller species, but won’t have the same magnetic effect on all birds.
Birds with more specialized diets, including most Eagles, Hawks, and Falcons, won’t give blueberry bushes a second glance (unless there are songbirds nesting inside its foliage). Ducks and Geese are also known to not consume berries as part of their natural diet.
Perhaps the best way to offer blueberries to birds is to plant them in your garden and let any birds that are keen to sample them help themselves as and when they fancy it. Wild blueberries are a great addition to the natural diet of many fruit-eating birds, and foraging for themselves allows them to pick and choose exactly which ones and how many they want.
If you are supplying store-bought blueberries, it’s advised to wash them thoroughly before putting them out on a bird table, or platform feeder or scattering them directly on the ground. This removes any toxins or traces of pesticides that may have been used in the packaging and preparation process. For this reason, organic blueberries are always the best option.
Fresh blueberries are optimum rather than frozen ones and can be left out whole, without any additional chopping or preparation. Larger birds will take whole blueberries, while smaller species will peck and enjoy a small nibble that allows them to access the sweet juice.
Frozen blueberries can be offered, but it’s recommended to let them warm up to room temperature before leaving them out on your feeders. Dried and dehydrated blueberries are also ok but lack the benefits of the added moisture in fresh berries.
Blueberries can safely be offered to birds all year round, and are a good way of introducing vitamins into their natural diet in winter, by mixing dried berries into store-bought bird seed or adding them into suet mixes.
Pictured: A Mockingbird. Perhaps the best way to offer blueberries to birds is to plant them in your garden and let any birds that are keen to sample them help themselves
Robins are known to be big fans of blueberries and benefit from the energy and moisture they provide. It’s perfectly safe to feed robins fresh or dried blueberries and they will almost certainly help themselves if you have a blueberry bush growing in your yard.
In yards with blueberry bushes, birds will eat both ripe and overripe berries in preference to those that haven’t yet ripened.
It’s not advised to feed birds on any rotting fruit with a putrid smell or visible mold, as it could cause digestive issues. Naturally overripe berries and windfalls on the ground beneath a blueberry bush will not be a problem.
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