Feeder in the Wild Garden

first_imgI have a special persimmon tree in my garden. An old Japanese variety called Jiro, itholds its fruit well into the winter and is a favorite food of our mockingbird.This year I picked all the fruit to eat myself, but on a recent cold, blustery day Ithrew a spoiled persimmon out the door into a thicket.I was amazed to see that our mockingbird, within 10 minutes, had found the fruit andwas greedily feeding on it.That gave me an idea.So a few days later, I put out a single persimmon on the edge of our deck. As before,the mockingbird quickly found it and began to feed.Over the next few days, I added more fruits: cut oranges, half a grapefruit, an appleand a slice of pear.My mocker has his preferences. Citrus fruits are very low priority. A soft persimmonwas tops. Soft apples and pears were also good. A rotten spot was usually favored as aplace to begin feeding.So that gave me another idea. How about a fruit feeding station for winter birds?I maintained my fruit feeder on the edge of the deck for several days but no otherbirds came — only the mocker.Joe Meyers, an ornithologist friend, tells me you can lure bluebirds to a fruit feederwith a special trick.Cut branches of sumac bearing clusters of fruit (only female sumacs have fruit.)Arrange these branches so they will serve as perches near the feeder. This will lure thebirds.In winter, bluebird flocks frequent sumac groves to feed on the berries. Once thebluebirds come in, they will find the other fruits you put out for them. Once they learnwhere your feeder is, they will keep coming.Try blueberries, raisins and finely cut fruits of larger kinds. Joe suggests gatheringdogwood fruit in fall and saving it in the refrigerator for winter feeding.You can do likewise by picking and freezing blueberries in the summer.Put your fruit feeder near a wild, tangled thicket well away from your feeder forseed-eating birds. Mockingbirds are territorial and aggressive and will drive other birdsaway. No point having them defend a seed feeder, because mockers don’t normally eat seeds.Plant fruit-bearing trees and shrubs to provide other winter food. American Holly isgood for this purpose. It may attract flocks of wintering robins and cedar waxwings.But expect your mocker to be selfish. He will do his best to drive the transient birdsaway and keep all the fruit to himself.If you establish a fruit feeder, I’d appreciate hearing what kinds of birds use it andwhat fruits they prefer.Send a note to Jeff Jackson, Extension Wildlife Specialist, University of Georgia,Forestry 4-404, Athens, GA 30602.last_img