Fruit is a preferred food for many different birds. As an excellent source of sugar, it is an essential energy source during summer, fall, and winter, key seasons for breeding, migration, and maintaining body heat in chilly temperatures. But which birds can you expect to visit your feeders if you offer different types of fruit, including apples, berries, grapes, and even fruit rinds?
Birds can eat many different types of fruit in many different conditions. All fruits that are suitable for human consumption are also nutritious for birds. Birds will also eat other types of fruit that are not typical human foods, such as toxic types of berries, as well as damaged or overripe fruit that would not be tasty to humans. Fruit bits that cling to discarded rinds or large seeds, such as pumpkin seeds, can also be great for feeding birds. The most popular fruits birds eat include:
- Concord grapes
- Prickly pear
Depending on the bird species, the ripeness of the fruit, and the type of fruit, birds might eat the flesh, sip the juice, or both. Small fruits can even be swallowed whole, and birds will visit fruit trees before they are fully ripe and as long as there are a few fruits available after the prime harvest season. On farms and orchards this can be a problem, since birds can easily damage crops before they are ripe enough to harvest. In bird-friendly yards, however, fruit is a great choice for feeding birds because it does not leave as many hulls and wasted debris as most types of birdseed. Planting fruit trees, berry shrubs, and other plants that produce fruit is a great way to feed birds on a budget.
Bird Species That Eat Fruit
There are many different birds that have at least a partially frugivorous diet and will eat fruit regularly. The most familiar birds that will eat fruit include:
- American robin
- Baltimore oriole
- Black-capped chickadee
- Black-headed grosbeak
- Blue jay
- Bohemian waxwing
- Brown thrasher
- Bullock's oriole
- Cedar waxwing
- Crested barbet
- Eastern bluebird
- Eurasian blackcap
- European starling
- Gray catbird
- House finch
- House wren
- Northern cardinal
- Northern flicker
- Northern mockingbird
- Purple finch
- Rose-breasted grosbeak
- Ruby-crowned kinglet
- Scarlet tanager
- Summer tanager
- Tufted titmouse
- Western tanager
While these birds will readily come to bird feeders for fruit, other thrushes, sparrows, tits, woodpeckers, warblers, and towhees will also eat fruit to some extent. In tropical climates, hornbills, toucans, cassowaries, and parrots also have a fruit-based diet.
Attracting Birds With Fruit
There are many ways to offer fruit as a bird food and attract a wide range of hungry species.
- Plant fruit trees for birds and fruit-producing berry bushes and shrubs to provide a natural, renewable source of fruit for birds to easily forage. Ideally, choose native varieties that will be more recognizable to local and regional birds. Native plants will also thrive in local climates without needing excessive care or damaging landscapes.
- Avoid or minimize pesticide and herbicide use near any fruit-producing plants for birds to avoid any unintended poisoning or toxic effects. If chemical treatments are absolutely necessary, opt for organic options and follow application instructions meticulously to avoid accidental contamination or overuse.
- Offer fresh or dried fruit cut into both large and small chunks or slices in open tray feeders or sprinkled on the ground. Fruit chunks can also be offered in a mesh bag or suet cage, or may even be strung along a fun feeder garland for a feeder that is decorative as well as tasty. Leftover rinds can be added to platform feeders or placed on the ground for birds to peck.
- Stick large chunks of fruit or fruit halves onto fruit spike feeders near other bird feeding stations. Many oriole feeders have a spike or other feature specifically to accommodate fruit to hold it steady without falling or slipping away from hungry birds.
- Freeze fruit whole or cut into chunks in the summer and fall to add to feeders in the winter for birds to enjoy when natural fruit sources are scarce. Local farmer's markets and produce departments may be willing to offer deep discounts on older fruit that is still perfect for birds but less attractive to customers.
- Leave damaged or overripe fruit on trees and shrubs in the fall to provide an excellent natural energy source for migrating birds. If it is necessary to protect the trees from birds while some fruit is harvested, opt for nets around the branches you wish to protect while allowing birds to feed on other branches with less desirable fruit.
- Add small bits of fruit to muffins or healthy bread recipes for birds, or add fruit to a custom suet recipe for birds to enjoy.
- Only offer as much fruit as birds will eat in a day or two to avoid spoiled fruit that may attract rodents, insects, or other unwanted pests. If the fruit is getting older and fermenting, it is less healthy for birds and should be offered sparingly or composted instead.
- If birds do not seem interested in the available fruit, try a different variety that may appeal to their tastes more readily. Apples and oranges are the most popular and most universally accepted fruits to feed birds, and it is not necessary to peel or core the fruit before offering it to birds.
In addition to offering fruit to backyard birds, many fruit-eating birds will also sip nectar and eat jelly. Adding nectar feeders, nectar-rich flowers, and jelly feeders to a backyard bird buffet can attract even more birds that will quickly learn to appreciate all the sources of fruit available.