The Birds Go to the Grocery Store

The Birds Go to the Grocery Store

The forecast called for snow again today, so folks were back at the grocery stores loading up on supplies--particularly those folks who live knowing they are likely to lose power. So when I came home for lunch it should have come as no surprise to find the birds doing the same thing, in their own way. The feeders were getting hit hard--that was no surprise. Think of them as the "cereal aisle."

What was a surprise, because I had only seen the occasional mockingbird snacking on them, was the blitzkreig being staged on the Winterberry Holly shrubs--by a sneaky swarm of bluebirds. Obviously these guys had more of a taste for the produce section. Our winterberry holly shrubs aren't very large yet. Really only about 18" tall, since I had done a "shaping" pruning last year. But before today, they were pretty thoroughly loaded with berries.

That was then.

For three or four hours, they zoomed in and out. Launching their assault from the power lines and the trees across the street, the bluebirds populated the hollies and swallowed berry after berry. Other birds showed up to scavenge as well--robins, house finches and goldfinches--but the big show was the bluebirds.

We selected a small cultivar of the native winterberry holly, which can reach a height of 15 feet. Some excellent examples of these shrubs can be found at the

Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education

inside the Pisgah National Forest. Winterberry Hollies are deciduous hollies, leaving the stark twigs loaded with red berries a wintertime visual delight. Like many other hollies, winterberries require that you plant both male and female plants. The varieties we chose should get no taller than about 4 feet-- we have "Jim Dandy" and his girls, the "Red Sprites."

Last year, Jim and the girls didn't stir up much activity, as they hadn't really had time to get to know each other. This year, however, our pollinators kicked into high gear because the hollies were loaded with blooms. And now the bluebirds have been rewarded for their patience with buckets of berries. Or at least, it


to be buckets.

Thanks for reading--

[P. S. Don't forget--you can click on the photos for larger versions. Enjoy!]

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