With a bit of advanced planning, snow cover, and fortuitous timing, you may be able to catch sight of berry time in bluebird land.
Bluebirds love juniper berries … something I learned quite by accident many years ago after I had gathered berry-laden juniper branches to decorate a winter wreath hanging on my front door. The door, near my office window, attracted a lot of bird activity on a snowy-covered February day much like today. When I investigated I found bluebirds visiting the wreath for a mid-winter snack.
Since then I’ve tried to collect berry-laden juniper branches for each winter’s outdoor decorations. It’s a delight when a flock of bluebirds brighten a winter landscape.
Some of the most common plants are those most valuable to native wildlife. Juniperus virginiana, more commonly known as Eastern Red Cedar, in tree and spreading forms, as well as creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis) are three extremely valuable North American natives growing in Connecticut. Ellen Sousa, author of The Green Garden, a great how-to book for creating wildlife habitat in New England gardens (I reviewed it two years ago), shares more on the benefits of junipers in this post at Beautiful Wildlife Garden.
But, beyond juniper berries, bluebirds will feast on holly berries at this time of year.
This afternoon was berry feasting time around my house and I managed to catch a couple of bluebirds in photos. They are not good photos – taken through a screen from an inside window without using a tripod. I apologize for the fuzziness. I had to catch these active bluebirds while I could. Bluebirds are not likely to sit still for a photo shoot and, once spooked, do not return until they are good and ready.
So, in fuzzy images, I present some of my bluebird visitors.
They pulled at the holly berries until it was their turn at the winter-decoration juniper berries in nearby basket. (There was no way for my camera to catch any bluebirds at the juniper berries.)
The photos do not do justice to the wonderful sight of a bright bluebird against the pure white of newly-fallen snow but, hopefully you get the mental picture.
I hope these mediocre photos will entice you to plant shrubs that bluebirds love. I’ve actually transplanted some small Eastern Red Cedars from the inconvenient places they self-sowed to more favorable spots, hoping they will eventually produce their own crop of berries to keep the local bluebirds fed.
But I also have a few hollies growing in a deer-protected location. If you plant hollies be sure to include at least one male plant in the Ilex family to pollinate any female berry-producing Ilex in your yard. I have just one male that pollinates four different female Ilex shrubs, including two winterberries on the opposite side of the house.
You’ll be happy you included junipers and hollies in your landscape when you get to witness berry feasting time in bluebird land.