IS THERE A NEED TO FEED BLUEBIRDS?
(REVISED JANUARY, 1994)
using dogwood berries is to serve as a starter
or primer to encourage and train bluebirds to take raisins. Many smaller birds
and the cardinal remove the flesh from the dogwood seed. The dogwood seed does
not pass through the bluebird. After a few minutes, the bird regurgitates the
clean seed and is then ready to feed again. This accounts for a 20 to 30 minute
interval between feedings, especially on cold, windy or snowy periods.
Where and how do you
obtain dogwood berries? The best berries are to be found on yard trees. Start
cruising residential streets in early to mid-October to locate well-fruited trees.
Avoid new or very old residential areas. The best trees will be from between fifteen
to thirty years old.
Don't become easily discouraged if they seem
hard to find. Green berries among green leaves or red berries among red leaves
can be difficult to see. However, waiting for most of the leaves to fall is a
mistake because migrating birds can clean the trees first. A flock of starlings,
blackbirds, cedar waxwings, or robins can strip a large tree in a few minutes.
Obtain permission from the tree owner to pick the berries at a
later date. Be sure to explain that removing the berries will not affect the
next year's bloom or fruiting. Don't start picking until the berries are ripe,
usually mid-October or early November. If the flesh still clings tight to the
seed, they are not ripe. Berries that ripen late hold their quality better in
Because the dogwood berry is a fruit, it can be
infested with a specific dogwood fruit fly worm. If there are several dark
berries on a tree, avoid it. Extended warm weather in the fall causes the worm
problem to be worse while later maturing berries seem to have fewer worms.
Damaged or wormy berries do no keep well in refrigeration. Like a bad potato, a damaged berry can cause other good ones to decay. However, wormy berries are all right for planting.
Dogwood berries have to be picked, not shaken, from the limbs. Spread a sheet of ground cover material, tough enough to support ladders, under the tree. Pick the berries, allowing them to fall on the ground cover. Next, remove leaves and large twigs (although some trash material will help to prevent bulk berries from going into heat) prior to final cleaning and refrigeration. Lesser amounts can be picked by hand using a small pail or container hung about the neck.
If there is not too much spoilage, five gallons is a suggested amounts to pick for one feeder to feed bluebirds only. Yields of berries per tree can vary from five to twenty-five pounds in a good year. (The 1985 and 1990 crops of dogwood berries were very light. 1993 was a good crop year.) When large amounts of leaves, twigs, and small debris are with the berries, clean by using screens. First, pass
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