When you think of what birds eat, what comes to mind first? Insects, or perhaps seeds? There is another type of food commonly enjoyed by birds that we sometimes forget about, berries! There are many berry-producing plants that grow plentifully in the wild, including the topic of this article, the blackberry. We’ll look at 14 birds that east blackberries, many of which you are likely familiar with.
Wild blackberries can grow in many different regions, but they typically thrive in temperate climates with well-drained soil. They are native to North America, but can also be found in Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world. They can grow in a variety of habitats, including forests, fields, and along roadsides.
14 Birds That Eat Blackberries
While we often associate blackberries with our own enjoyment, these tart berries also play a role in the lives of many bird species. From the iconic American robin and northern cardinal, to the secretive gray catbird, there are many birds that both frequently, and opportunistically choose to eat blackberries.
1. Red-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed vireos are common visitors to forests across the eastern and northern states of the U.S. during the summer. While their red eye and white eyebrow stripe is fairly distinctive, they are often hard to see since they spend a lot of time in the upper tree canopy. But they do like to sing, and their song is a familiar summer sound for those that walk in the woods.
are their main diet, but they often supplement with fruits, and switch to more and more fruits and berries as autumn approaches. They like small fruits such as blackberries, Virginia creeper, dogwood, bayberry, spicebush and elderberry.
2. American robin
The American robin, who’s presence often signals the start of spring throughout the United States, is a familiar visitor in gardens, parks, and suburban neighborhoods. Their distinctive orange-red breast and cheerful song make them easy to spot (and hear).
While robins are omnivorous and consume a varied diet that includes insects and earthworms, they are also known to snack on blackberries when these berries ripen during the summer. Robins enjoy a variety of berries, especially later in the year.
3. Cedar waxwing
Cedar waxwings are elegant birds with sleek, brownish-gray plumage, distinctive crests, and a striking black mask. Although they range mostly in the northern portion of the United States, they travel to the south during the winter and often travel together in flocks.
These birds have a particular fondness for fruit, which they eat year-round unlike some birds that tend to be more insect-heavy in the summer. Nice juicy blackberries definitely make the list, as do juniper, cedar, crabapple, wild cherry, mulberry and dogwood. More often than not, you’ll see a whole group of them descend on a fruiting tree together and chow down.
4. Red-headed Woodpecker
Since they are known for drilling on wood to gain access to their insect prey, you may not think woodpeckers would eat berries. Red-headed woodpeckers, however, have a lot of interesting traits like catching insects in the air, looking for food on the ground, and even hunting mice!
They have a varied diet that goes beyond insects to include nuts, corn, fruits, and berries like blackberries. These black and white woodpeckers with red heads remain year-round in the southeastern U.S., and spread to the north for the summer.
5. Northern mockingbird
As the name would suggest, Northern mockingbirds are skilled mimics and can imitate the songs of various bird species. They have gray plumage with white wing patches that can be used to identify them, and are widespread throughout North America.
These adaptable birds thrive in urban environments and gardens, where they eagerly consume blackberries among other fruits. In fact, due to their aggressive nature, if they find a tree or shrub producing a lot of berries they may defend it against other birds, which can sometimes cause backyard disputes.
6. European starling
European starlings are known for their iridescent, speckled plumage, and their ability to adapt to diverse environments. While they are mainly insect eaters, they will supplement with various other foods. As insects become less plentiful in many areas during fall and winter, they tend to increase consumption of berries. Holly, cherries, hackberries, sumac, mulberries and blackberries are all fruits they are known to enjoy.
7. Gray catbird
Gray catbirds are named for their cat-like mewing calls and are known for their gray plumage with a subtle rusty under-ail. They often remain hidden within shrubbery. While insects make up a significant part of their diet, gray catbirds also enjoy the seasonal abundance of berries.
Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, wild grape, pokeweed, wild cherry and poison ivy berry are all on the menu. Except for the Atlantic coast where they remain year-round, catbirds are summer visitors to the U.S.
Bluebirds, cherished for their brilliant blue plumage, are cavity-nesting birds and often use nest boxes provided by bird enthusiasts. While they mostly feed on insects and worms, all three U.S. bluebird species (eastern, western and mountain) also consume berries as part of their diet.
Depending on the habitat, they will take advantage of what is ripe in their area. This often includes blackberry, hackberry, cedar, grapes, raspberries, serviceberry, elderberry and juniper.
9. Brown thrasher
Brown thrashers are named for their distinctive behavior of thrashing about in leaf litter to uncover insects and other prey. They have reddish-brown plumage with bold brown spots on their cream colored chest. In the southeastern U.S. they stay year-round, while in the north and central parts of the country they are only found during the spring and summer.
While they mainly eat arthropods and insects, they do also consume nuts, seeds and berries. Blueberry, huckleberry, holly, elderberry, blackberry and pokeberry are just a few of the fruiting plants they enjoy.
10. Baltimore orioles
Baltimore Orioles are not only renowned for their vibrant plumage and delightful songs, but also for their fondness for fruit. These striking birds that visit the eastern U.S. during spring and summer, can sometimes be attracted to backyards using oranges or grape jelly.
Pretty much any ripe fruits are up for grabs, including blackberries. Unfortunately their love of fruit can sometimes spell trouble for farmers growing bananas, oranges, cherries and other favorite fruits. Orioles consume a lot of fruit during spring and fall, but tend to eat more insects during the summer breeding season.
11. Spotted Towhee
Spotted towhees are strikingly attractive birds, with their bold black, white and rusty plumage. Towhees forage mostly on the ground and eat beetles, weevils, millipedes and other bugs found in the leaf litter. However insects aren’t all they eat. Nuts, seeds and berries are also included in their diet.
Berries consumed include blackberry, raspberry, sumac, and poison oak. If you have fruiting shrubs you may see them in your yard, or perhaps picking through the seeds that fall to the ground below your bird feeders. While we highlited the spotted towhee here, all this is also true for their counterpart in the east, the eastern towhee.
12. Indigo bunting
The stunning indigo bunting eats a little bit of everything including small seeds, berries, buds and insects. You may see them picking seeds from goldenrod, dandelion and thistles. When seasonal berries are ripe, they enjoy getting a little sweetness from blackberries, elderberries and serviceberries. Only males are blue, while females are a duller brownish yellow. Indigo buntings winter in Central America then visit the eastern half of the U.S. for the summer breeding season.
13. Northern cardinals
The Northern Cardinal is a well-known bird due to male’s red plumage, distinctive crest, and presence at backyard feeders. Cardinals are known for their varied diet, which includes seeds, insects, and fruits. If you feed these birds you may be most accustomed to seeing them devour sunflower seeds at your feeders, however they are likely visiting your berry bushes too. During the summer and fall when berries ripen, these beautiful red birds pay a visit to berry filled bushes like blackberry and pokeweed.
14. Purple finch
The Purple Finch, known for its rich rosy plumage, is a delightful songbird commonly found across North America. Some people nickname these pretty birds raspberry finches, likening males coloration to a finch dipped in raspberry sauce. Purple finches are versatile eaters, consuming seeds, buds, and fruits in their diet.
When blackberry season comes around, Purple Finches can be found feasting on the berries. Their small, pointed beaks are adept at plucking the juicy blackberries from the bushes. Berries from honeysuckle, juniper as well as crabapples and even apricots may be consumed as well.