Everyone is familiar with the Christmas tradition of kissing beneath a sprig of mistletoe. However, what is less known is the fact the waxy berries produced by this parasitic plant are eaten by a wide variety of wild birds.
This popular custom apparently originated in Europe during the 1500s. The first mention of the holiday tradition in America appeared in the writings of the famous early American Writer, Washington Irving.
According to legend, couples that share a kiss beneath sprig of mistletoe are bestowed with good luck when it comes to affairs of the heart. However, this blessing is only enjoyed by couples that also pluck a berry from the mistletoe branch . Those that do not share a kiss will suffer bad luck. In addition, once the last berry is removed, the mistletoe’s magical power is lost.
Mistletoe berries are loved by many birds. For example, both cedar waxwings and eastern bluebirds relish the small berries. The seemingly translucent, white berries are also gobbled up by American and fish crows, hermit thrushes, American robins, evening grosbeaks and chickadees.
Although the magical powers of the mistletoe can be disputed, there is no question that the ubiquitous plant provides our backyard bird neighbors with an important source of food during a time of the year when food is at a premium.