My wife and I have made a concerted effort to incorporate a wide variety of wildlife food plants into our home landscape. Our goal has always been to provide our wildlife neighbors with a wide variety of foods throughout the entire year. For one reason or the other, we never set out any American beautyberry plants. However, years ago we found one growing alongside a backyard fence. I am certain a bird unknowingly dropped a seed there as it perched on the fence. Since then from late summer into fall and sometimes-even winter, the plant has been festooned with bountiful crops of round, bright lavender berries (actually, they are drupes). This forces a host of birds to make some difficult dining decisions.
This is particularly true of the mockingbird that patrols our backyard. A few weeks ago, I spotted the bird, as it was swallowing pokeberries. When I unwittingly interrupted its meal, the diner immediately flew to an American beautyberry growing some distance away. Upon landing, while keeping a close eye on me, it commenced eating beautyberry after beautyberry.
Later in the day, I saw it again eating suet from a feeder hanging near my office. Whenever it flew away from the suet, house finches, cardinals, and Carolina chickadees flew in to eat their share of the fatty food. In just a few moments, the mockingbird reappeared and scared the interlopers away. The mockingbird definitely did not want to share food with other birds.
On previous occasions, I have witnessed the bird defend plants bearing pokeberries and beautyberries from the likes of thrashers, cardinals, gray catbirds, American robins, and towhees.
Since it is impossible for a single bird to defend all three of these sources of food, throughout the entire day it is faced with the dilemma of deciding of what and when to eat. The appearance of the American beautyberries simply acerbated this bird’s problem.
If you are like us and never got around to planting American beautyberry in your yard, don’t wait for a bird to plant it for you. Take the initiative and plant one yourself. This native shrub is easy to grow. The only maintenance it requires is cutting the stems back each winter.
You will enjoy its strikingly colorful berries and experience the satisfaction of knowing you are helping feed a wide variety of birds and mammals. In addition, you will find that you have created a dining dilemma for mockingbirds and other birds that relish its berries. Believe me, that is not such a bad thing at all.