When planning a garden, or deciding what to place on a bird feeder, understanding what different birds eat is important. And yes, berries are an important food source for many birds!
Many of these berries humans enjoy, but there are also plenty of other berries that are not suitable for human consumption—but are a food source for birds.
Let’s take a closer look at some common berries, and whether or not they make as good a snack for birds as they do for us!
Can Birds Eat Blueberries?
Blueberries are one of the most popular berries for human consumption, considered by many to be a superfood. And the things that make them beneficial for us to eat also make blueberries a healthy addition to the diet of backyard birds.
Many North American bird species eat blueberries if they are growing in gardens in the late summer, or placed on bird feeders.
Native plants (vs. non-native plants) are excellent choices if you want to do good for the birds that share your space. So plant some native blueberry seeds!
Can Birds Eat Cranberries?
A number of native birds will eat cranberries in the wild since these berries are also a useful and healthy source of nutrition.
Planting cranberries might be a great idea if you have suitable conditions where you live.
However, when other food sources are available, many birds won’t favor these, opting instead for sweeter, less tart fruits where these are on offer and might not pick them from a feeding station.
Can Birds Eat Raspberries?
Those growing raspberries will no doubt already be well aware that birds love the taste of these fruits, and you will be sharing your harvest, if it is unprotected, with a range of wild birds.
Raspberries are great for our health, and great for the health of our feathered friends too.
Backyard birds will very much appreciate it if you are prepared to share. And native raspberry plants can be another top-notch choice for a wildlife-friendly garden.
Can Birds Eat Strawberries?
Strawberries are another popular crop for human consumption that also benefits birds. Birds love the taste of sweet strawberries as much as we do.
And they will benefit from the vitamins and elements that nutritious fruits contain. Like all other fruits and berries, however, especially those at the sweeter end of the spectrum, these should only ever be fed in moderation.
You might simply allow birds access to the harvest of ripe fruits, letting them take a share, or you might place some at a bird table or other feeding area.
Can Birds Eat Blackberries?
Like the other popular berries mentioned above, blackberries also make a great snack for birds and us. Blackberries are in the Rubus genus and are related to raspberries. They contain many of the same beneficial nutrients too.
Fruiting towards the end of summer or in early fall, blackberries are incredibly easy to grow and can be cultivated in many areas.
These common plants attract many birds, such as warblers, orioles, tanagers, thrashers, mockingbirds, catbirds, turkeys, robins, and other thrushes to your garden. So planting some is the best way to provide blackberries for birds to eat.
You might also provide a handful of fresh berries on a bird table or at another feeding station now and then. But avoid providing blackberries in blackberry jam or other preserves with a lot of added sugar.
It won’t do harm very occasionally, but for birds, as for us, too much sugar is a bad thing.
Remember, planting rather than supplemental feeding is best. So you really should cultivate them, or allow them to grow if they occur naturally in your area.
Tangled thickets of brambles might not always be appealing to us. But birds won’t just love the berries, they will love the shelter and habitat too.
If the thorns worry you, thornless blackberry varieties are available.
Can Birds Eat Goji Berries?
Goji berries are not a native option—they’re exotic plants. But they can be useful in sustainable and productive garden design in many areas. The goji berry is the fruit of either Lycium barbarum or Lycium chinense.
These are native to Asia but have been cultivated extensively in North America and other regions in recent years. It is popular to grow goji berries in forest gardens, fruiting hedgerows, and other sustainable garden designs.
Since goji berries are not native, they are not a natural food source for North American birds.
But birds can and will eat them if you provide some on a bird table, and some birds may also take the berries if you grow them in your garden.
Note, however, that just as not all humans find these berries appealing, so too, not all birds will necessarily like the taste.
These berries have an impressive nutritional profile and are healthy for birds in many of the same ways that they are healthy for us. However, note that like any supplemental food, they should only ever be fed in moderation.
These berries are high in iron so there is a very slight concern that extremely excessive consumption could pose a risk to bird health. But in small quantities, it is very unlikely that there will be any issues.
Can Birds Eat Mulberries?
Mulberries are another berry that has historically been very important as a good source for humans. And like the other berries listed above, mulberries are also healthy for and appealing to birds.
If you are looking for a bird-friendly berry-producing tree or shrub to grow in your garden, mulberry seeds provide great options.
The native Morus rubra is an excellent choice for North American gardeners and provides berries that people can eat, and share with a wide range of local bird species that like to eat them.
More than 60 North American bird species feed on mulberries, and one can see as many as 20 different bird species feeding on just a single specimen.
Planting a native mulberry tree, if you live somewhere suitable, is a beautiful thing to do for yourself, and the local wildlife. Just remember that it will often take a while before the trees bear fruit.
You might also leave out a handful of berries from elsewhere for the birds in your garden. Just remember that fresh is better than dried. And dried berries might have harmful preservatives.
However, with their relatively high sugar content, these berries should also only be provided as an occasional treat.
Can Birds Eat Elderberries?
If you are looking to provide berries for birds through the American plants you choose to grow in your garden, elderberries can also be an excellent choice.
Native elderberries Sambucus nigra var. Canadensis, (American black elderberry), Sambucus nigra var. cerulea (blue elderberry), and Sambucus racemosa (the red elderberry)all have berries that are edible to us in moderation.
The berries tend to be unpleasant raw but work well in a range of preserves and are used in winemaking etc.
Birds love these too and will be attracted to eat the berries when you grow them in your garden. Elderberry species really are a great choice for wildlife-friendly and productive spaces.
Numerous species will be attracted to these native plants, including American goldfinches, American robins, bluebirds, cardinals, catbirds, mockingbirds, orioles, tanagers, warblers, and woodpeckers, for example.
Can Birds Eat Holly Berries?
Of course, birds can eat a wide range of berries that are not edible to us, and derive many nutritional benefits from doing so.
Holly species are well known to be toxic to humans. But they are not toxic to our feathered friends and in fact, many birds find them a valuable food source during the colder months on wintering grounds.
North American Birds that readily eat winterberry holly include the American Robin, Blue Jays, Eastern bluebirds, gray catbirds, hermit thrushes, mistle thrushes, northern mockingbirds, and northern cardinals, example.
Holly, however, is a rather broad term, and there are many different species of Ilex that you might consider growing in your garden to attract birds and provide them with a source of berries for food.
It is important to note that winterberry holly is an invasive plant in some areas.
So if you are considering growing holly in your garden for the birds and other local wildlife, you should always aim to find a native species for a bird-friendly backyard. For example, you might consider:
- Ilex opaca (Southern and Eastern US, zones 5-9)
- Ilex mucronata (Eastern US, zones 4 and up)
- Ilex verticillata (Eastern US, zones 3-9)
- Ilex glabra (Eastern and South-Central US, zones 5-9)
- Ilex ambigua (Southeastern US, zones 7-9)
- Ilex vomitoria (Southeastern US, zones 7-9)
Please remember that if you want to produce berries for birds, you will need at least one female plant and a male plant to pollinate all females (only the female plants produce berries).
The male must be situated within 30 to 40 feet in order for pollination to occur and berries to form.
What Other Berries Can Birds Eat?
As you have learned above, many of the berries we like to eat, as well as many that we cannot eat, are wonderful food sources to attract birds to backyard gardens. You should certainly consider growing berries for birds in your garden. Wherever you live, there will be options that are suitable for you and the growing conditions where you live.
Some other extremely useful berry-producing plants for US gardens include options that also have many uses for humans, including:
- American gooseberries (Ribes hirtellum)
- Beautyberries (Callicarpa americana)
- Buffaloberries (Shepherdia)
- Checkerberry (Gaultheria procumbens)
- Chokeberries (Aronia ssp.)
- Dogwood berries (Cornus ssp.)
- Haws (hawthorne berries) (Crataegus ssp.)
- Honeyberries (Lonicera caerulea)
- Juniper berries (Juniperus communis)
- Nannyberries (Viburnum)
- Pruterberry/ Golden Currant (Ribes aureum)
- Salal berries (Gaultheria shallon)
- Serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.)
- Silverberries (Elaeagnus commutata)
Researching the plants native to your particular area should help you to find plenty of berries that you can grow that the birds in your garden will love to eat.
Remember, it is always better to plant to provide food sources for birds in your garden before you think about placing feeders or supplementing their diet in other ways.