Berries undoubtedly attract a range of wild birds to your garden, and blueberries are no exception.
But are blueberries a good choice for feeding the birds that visit your garden? Read on to find out more.
Can Birds Eat Blueberries?
If you already grow blueberry bushes where you live, you will already be aware that birds like them. In fact, you may need to take steps to protect your ripe blueberries so that the birds don’t eat them all before you get the chance to harvest.
If you don’t already grow blueberry plants in your garden, or cannot do so successfully where you live, you should know that there are plenty of other berry bushes you could grow that will be great for the birds who share your space.
Even if you don’t grow fresh blueberries, there are plenty of other shrubs you can plant to give birds a natural feast in your garden.
But you might also consider feeding organic blueberries from farmer’s markets or farms in your area to the wild birds in your garden.
Are Blueberries Toxic to Any Birds?
If you are thinking about feeding fresh blueberries to birds in your garden, you might wonder whether blueberries can harm any of your feathered friends.
The good news is that blueberries won’t harm any birds; they are non-toxic. Not all will love to eat them, but many bird species will eat blueberries whole or at least take a taste..
Are Blueberries Good for Birds?
Not only are blueberries nontoxic to birds, but they are also actually very good for them. Blueberries are very good for us, filled with antioxidants and vitamins.
And all those things that make blueberries beneficial in a human diet make them beneficial as a food source for birds too.
Like us, birds need a varied diet. For many birds, fruit is one item on the menu. Planting blueberry bushes, or placing blueberries on a feeder can help you to make sure that they get the varied nutrition that they need.
Which Birds Eat Blueberries?
Many North American bird species eat fresh blueberries including but certainly not limited to:
- American robins
- Cedar waxwings
- Northern mockingbirds
- Yellow-rumped warblers
Many other birds will also often taste blueberries if you grow some in your garden or place some in a feeding area. Smaller birds may take a nibble, while larger birds will often eat the berries whole.
How To Feed Blueberries to Birds
As mentioned above, the very best way to feed blueberries to birds is to plant them in your garden. While you can harvest most of the berry crop for yourself and your household, you can also consider leaving some for the birds and other wildlife that shares your space—as part of a daily diet.
Which Blueberries Should You Choose?
Whether or not you can successfully grow blueberries where you live will depend on your location and the climate, soil, and other environmental conditions to be found there.
In the US, the most common blueberries grown are:
- Highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) – where most cultivated blueberries are derived.
- Lowbush blueberries (V. angustifolium etc.) – wild blueberries, sometimes also semi-managed or cultivated on a smaller scale.
Many different varieties are found within these two categories—both wild blueberries with different native ranges, and cultivars developed for specific characteristics, particularly larger or more flavorsome fruit.
Cultivars have also been bred to suit the conditions in more southerly states, beyond the blueberry’s original native range.
The Rabbiteye blueberry, for example, is a southern type that is produced from the Carolinas to the Gulf Coast States.
Northern Highbush blueberries have been hybridized with other southern-adapted Vaccinium species to create a range of cultivars known as Southern highbush blueberries.
Birds of various types like to eat the berries of all of these types just as much as people do.
How To Grow Blueberries in Your Garden
If you would like to grow blueberries in your garden, note that they do best with a reasonable amount of sunshine, in acidic soil that is relatively fertile, and moist yet free-draining.
If you do not have suitable soil where you live, blueberries can also do well in pots, planters, or raised beds, grown in an ericaceous (acidic) potting mix.
But remember, containers and raised beds typically require more work than growing in the ground.
So if you don’t have the right soil or conditions for blueberries, you might like to consider planting other native berry bushes for yourself and the birds.
Organic or Other?
Of course, during fresh berry season, you might also like to purchase some fresh berries to eat yourself and to place out on bird tables or other bird feeding stations in your garden.
It is always best to begin by focusing on providing healthy fruits through garden design and the plants that you choose. But placing a variety of berries, fruits, and other foods on bird feeders can also help aid and attract birds to your space.
If you purchase blueberries then organic blueberries are the best option. When fruits are not grown organically, they will be contaminated with harmful pesticides and herbicides which could pose a risk to the birds you are seeking to aid.
If you are unsure whether or not blueberries were grown organically, give the fresh berries a good wash in water before you feed them to the birds. This should help to limit exposure to any toxins that might remain on the skin.
Placing Fresh Berries on Feeders
You do not have to do anything special with the blueberries before you place them on the feeder. You can add berries whole for a variety of vitamins. But to aid smaller birds, you might also like to crush some to give them easier access to the soft flesh and juices within.
Be warned, however, that birds can make quite a mess when eating blueberries, so make sure that you place them in a feeding area well away from outdoor furniture or other areas where staining from the berries could make a mess.
Another thing to note is that if you have suitable soil for blueberries, and birds eat them, they may well consume them seeds and all, and what goes in must come out. The birds may inadvertently ‘plant’ blueberry seeds in other parts of your garden.
The same is true for wild raspberries, and many other berries—birds that eat the berries whole will often ‘sow’ new plants for you elsewhere. Bird-sown plants can be an interesting feature to think about when managing an organic and bird-friendly garden.
In my own garden, for example, I have found elders popping up below perches often used by birds who ate the elderberries.
How Many Blueberries Should You Feed?
Giving a handful of blueberries now and then is sufficient. As with most sugar-rich fruits and berries, this is a food that birds should only eat in moderation. Providing too much sugar-rich fruit can be detrimental to the birds because, as mentioned above, like us they need a varied diet.
If you feed too many blueberries (or too much of anything at any one time), the birds will fill up on that and won’t have space for other foods they need to eat for balanced nutrition.
Fresh fruits are best, but dried berries are fine for some birds in moderation too. Just note that dried berries are higher in calories and sugar content, so don’t feed too many—for the risk of heart disease.
Never feed moldy blueberries or ones that have spoiled. If berries are not eaten, remove them to avoid attracting pests or breeding pathogens that cause health issues.
Many birds have a sweet tooth, and will also eat blueberry jams and other sweet preserves made with these berries as an occasional treat.
But make sure you don’t add too much sugar, and ideally, use the fresh fruits alone in anything to be fed to the birds to avoid any potential harm.