Be Your Own Birder

Birding Among the Berries

It’s no secret that birds love berries, and planting berry bushes in your landscape is a surefire way to attract thrushes, waxwings, vireos, and many other fruit-loving birds. But if berries aren’t right for your yard – due to soil type, climate, geography, or you may not even have a yard at all – you can still enjoy birds that love berries. Just visit a berry farm!

Visiting a U-Pick Farm

U-pick farms are available for a variety of delicious berries, including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. These farms offer acres of cultivated berries ripe for picking, both by you and by the birds. Berries are typically sold by weight, often with no minimum requirement or maximum limits. They’re fresher and much more delicious than berries you may find at the store, or even a local farmer’s market. Plus you get the fun of choosing just the berries you want, and most farms don’t mind at all if you sample a berry or two along the way.

Blueberry Farm – Photo by notjake

In addition to berry picking, different farms may also offer different attractions for the whole family to enjoy. Playgrounds, petting zoos, hay rides, craft bazaars, giant mazes, bakeries, cafes, and other activities may all be available. Some extra charges may apply, and not all attractions may be available during each berry season. Also be on the watch for different festivals at the farm, and some farms are also rental venues for weddings and other parties, so check before visiting to be sure picking is available.

Birds at the U-Pick Farm

For birders, however, the activities and even the berries themselves may not be the main attraction – the birds are. While the birds at any farm depend on where you go berry picking, the time of year berries are at their ripest, which berries you are harvesting, and the range of local berry-loving birds, you’re still sure to see a wide range of birds feasting on the berry bounty.

Watch for chittering flocks of waxwings whirling and dipping in and out of the berry bushes, while hawks, kites, and other raptors soar above the fields watching for rodents that also enjoy berry-licious meals. Catbirds, robins, jays, and thrushes will stay low in the bushes, darting back and forth from nearby woodland edges as they snack. Sparrows may stay on the field fringes, especially in drier, adjacent areas. If the farm features a nearby pond, you may also spot ducks, geese, herons, or egrets, even if they don’t enjoy berries quite as much as the other birds.

Blackberries to Pick – Photo by Dāvis Mosāns

Tips for Birding at the Farm

If you want to see the most birds while you pick the most berries, visit the farm at the peak of its berry season. Visiting earlier in the morning will ensure the most bird activity before the farm’s business picks up, and as a bonus you’ll get your pick of berries as well. Choose a farm that practices environmentally-responsible agriculture and doesn’t fret over losing a few berries to the birds, or better yet, find a farm that even encourages birds to visit with a purple martin house to help control insect populations for another species to see.

Dress comfortably for berry picking and wear sunscreen as needed, since most berry fields are in full sun. Your shoes will get dirty, and you may prefer long sleeves so you don’t get scratched by bushes as you reach for the very best berries. And don’t forget your binoculars – the fields can be large, and you won’t want to miss whatever birds join you for a sweet treat.

I’m fortunate that there are a number of productive berry farms near my home that offer public berry picking throughout the late winter and early spring (berry seasons are early in Florida). I’ve seen many great birds while I’m filling buckets with strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Every time I enjoy the fresh treat or create a delicious dessert such as strawberry tarts, lemon-blueberry pie, or jars and jars of blackberry jam, I can remember the amazing birding at the farm, and look forward to next year’s berries and all the birds they bring with them.

Fresh-Picked Strawberries – Photo by mako

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