I am fascinated by the astonishing relationships that exist between some native plants and animals. One such association links certain plants that produce fat-rich fruits and berries to migratory songbirds.
Long before the official arrival of fall, many birds like warblers, vireos, and thrushes, begin preparing for the epic fall migration during the heat of summer. One way in which they ready themselves for the long flight is by switching from predominantly eating insects and other invertebrates that are packed with protein to a of diet fruits and berries laden with fats.
This dramatic dietary change enables these migrants to store body fat using less time and effort. This is important, as this fat is the fuel needed to fuel their long migration. It seems foods rich in protein and carbohydrates yield twice as little energy as fatty foods.
Obviously, it behooves birds to quickly locate these sources of food. One way in plants that produce fruits or berries loaded with fat facilitate this endeavor is by advertising. The list of these plants includes blackgum, flowering dogwood, Virginia creeper, muscadine, magnolia, pokeweed, and many others. These plants advertise by bearing fruits and berries that are have bright red in color, have fall foliage that is bright yellow, red or orange, or display their fruits or berries on red stems.
The plants benefit from the birds widely spreading their seeds through their droppings whereas the birds are able to quickly locate food prior to and during their migration.
If you want to extend a helping hand to these special birds, incorporate as many of these plants as possible in your yard.
How beneficial are beautyberries ? I have several plants that the birds love.
American beautyberry is a great wildlife plant. As you indicated birds love ’em. We have several in our yard. I have seen the colorful berries eaten by cardinals, mockingbirds, catbirds and house finches. The list of birds that eat them includes many others. I need to do a blog concerning this great native food plant.