I try to keep abreast of what the wildlife eats throughout the year. This exercise has allowed me to watch how the food habits of a number of my backyard residents change throughout the year. Recently I was reminded of this fact as I watched a northern mockingbird dine on pokeberries.
Throughout the spring and much of the summer mockingbirds I watched them dining on suet, insects, blackberries, and other delicacies. Then seemingly, overnight birds seemed to abandon the places where they had been feeding. Last week they reappeared at pokeweeds that have colonized my property. The birds were dining on the plants’ juicy, purplish-black berries. While I have only seen mockingbirds eating the berries so far this summer, I suspect they have to share them with other backyard residents such as brown thrashers, eastern bluebirds, cardinals and even red-bellied woodpeckers.
The first time I witnessed a mockingbird eating pokeberries a couple of weeks ago the bird was having a difficult time plucking them from a cluster of fruit dangling from a droopy branch. Since it was seemingly impossible for the bird to perch on the flimsy branch and dine of the berries at the same time, it was forced to attempt to hover close to the berries. It immediately became obvious that the mockingbird’s ability to hover will never be favorably compared with that of a hummingbird. In spite of this, after several tries grab the berries, the cluster of berries eventually disappeared into the mouth of the determined bird.
If you find pokeberry plants sprouting in an out-of-the-way spot in your yard, let them grow. If you do, you will be rewarded with an attractive plant, and a great source of food for birds and other wildlife. In addition, you will be offered with some great wildlife viewing opportunities and the chance to learn more about the feeding habits of wildlife without having to leave your home.