Chokeberries and Popular Bird Fruit

newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)August 17, 2003

Last year I planted a small Black Chokeberry with some fruit already on the shrub. Afew weeks later I noticed the fruit was gone one morning so I knew something around here did like it, in spite of the fact that others on this forum have Chokeberry fruits untouched all winter long.

This year the shrub has grown nicely and there is alot of fruit on it, some ripe. I tasted it and it does have a bitter aftertaste but wasn't as bad as I was expecting. Anyway, birds eat all sorts of berries, we would find really displeasing, much less ones poisonous to humans so I don't see why they would not like them.

Yesterday the Mockingbirds were going nuts dive bombing anyone in the yard, including the neighbors cat. Today I found fledgling Mockers in my cherry tree and one in the hedgerow. So now I know why the Mockers are scolding and dive bombing.

So today I watched one of the Mockingbirds filling up on the Chokeberries and then take one in its beak and flew to the fledgling and fed it the berry. So again, this year, the chokeberries are quite popular and are being scarfed down . Don't even have to wait until Winter!!!

I really like the looks of the shrub, nice lovely deep glossey green leaves and pretty flowers in the spring. Lovely Fall leave color also. I will get more for sure, especially as I know that the fruits will be eaten around here.

I just wanted everyone to know that fruits that are ignored in one yard might be a big hit in another yard so try whatever types of wildlife shrubs you like even though someone else had bad luck with attracting customers for the fruit.

Last year someone posted that nothing touched their Beautyberry shrub berries even tough they were touted as bird attracting. Yet last year my beautyberries only lasted afew weeks afer the berries colored up as the birds scarfed them up.

There is still some fruit on the 'Shasta' Doublefile, even though the Catbirds seem to prefer that one. So you see, the Mockingbirds did have a choice and did not have to pick the Chokeberries. They seem to prefer them right now.

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roseunhip(z5b QC)

I am one of those who never saw birds ever come near touching my chokeberry drupes. But last spring, following a quite horrendously cold wintertime, coupled with the fact that here, last summer and FALL have been SO hot and dry that many a fruit crop were lost or of negligeable size for migrating and wintering birds, I noticed that one morning, those drupes were gone mysteriously. As it happened, robins were back in our gardens, hanging around in the "snow melt" perimeter around the house, and probably starving.
But yes, it is a lovely little shrub. I have "Autumn Magic" and it does have a spectacular fall red. You might know this one, but if not, look for the red chokeberry (A. arbutifolia). On this photo I have in this book, it looks gorgeous. Apparently not too hardy in my zone though.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2003 at 9:10AM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

I intend to get Red Chokeberry 'Brilliantissima' next spring. I would get it this fall but can't find one around here so have to mail order. So I will just wait until Spring. Have a nice spot picked out for it.

I have Black Chokebery 'Iroquois Beauty' now. Its a nice one that doesn't get too big, and I have another spot (under and around the newly planted Crabapple tree) I would like to add some of these not too tall variety but even though I found it locally last year, this year the nursery has another variety. I don't know where I will find them.

The Mockingbird was back eating the Chokeberries this morning. Probably ate some yesterday too but I didn't see it. I put the small (inch and a half) tomato hornworms I picked off my plants in the veggie garden on the driveway yesterday where the birds could see them and the Mockingbird was scarfing them up and feeding his fledglings. I garden organically so the birds are safe eating any insects around here.

The 'Shasta' has only a handful of berries left. I only see the Catbirds hanging around there so I figgure thats what ate them.

Another thing is that there isn't anything in the bird fruit department for them to eat right now except the Chokeberries and the one Doublefile Viburnum. The next thing they will have is the fruit off the Arrowwood Viburnums and then the Beautyberries. I am not sure when the Inkberries off the new Inkberry shrub would be eaten, I think Winter. Then, of course, late Fall will bring ripe Winterberries for the birds.

This Spring we started the birds eating fruit with them eating Cherries from my cherry tree. Then the Serviceberries and Blueberries were worked on until they were gone. After that I had nothing for them until now. Hopefuly next year wil be different.

I have Red Elderberries which should fruit after the Serviceberries or around there, then the European Black Elderberries which should bloom in June and set fruit after the Red Elderberries. Then, in future years, I will have the American Black Elderberries fruiting after the S. nigra and the Blue Elderberries fruiting sometime co-insiding with the others.

I know many of you grow either European Black Elderberry, S. nigra, or American Black Elderberry, S. canadensis, for the birds. But after I figgured out this Spring that I had European Black Elderberries instead of the American Black Elderberries, I orginially thought I had, I decided to get more types of Elderberries. Looking up information on Elderberries on the net, I discovered that they don't all flower and fruit at the same time. So that by planting more types, there would be a succession of fruit.

Start with red, blooming May. Then European Black, blooming June. American Black, blooming July. I think the Blue blooms in May also. Now, I got this off the web, as I don't know from personal experience when they all will bloom but the info seems reliable.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2003 at 1:17PM
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roseunhip(z5b QC)

Since you are an elderberry completist, don't forget that you owe it to yourself (and of course to the birdies) to grow S. pubens (American red elderb.)! It blooms and fruits so early (fruits begin to ripen as early as late June over here), even in the shade, and I can assure you that it grows very quickly too! Hardly needs any watering also, a major plus in this world!!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2003 at 2:27PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

The Red Elderberies I have are American Red Elder, S. pubens that I got as seedlings from the conservation nursery this past Spring. I hope some might bloom next year, although I am not sure about that. Next Spring, I will get the American Black Elderbery, S. canadensis from the same place. The price is right there!

Eventually I have another area that I will also put some Red Elder besides the place they are now, so that I will have them in two places in the yard. But I am not sure that I will be able to do that next Spring, as the area is overgrown with trash seedlings and English Ivey so lots to do before being able to plant. I have started on clearing the area but I have lots of other things to do. I pulled and cut back all I could. Now I will hit the remander with Roundup Brush Killer. But I am not sure if one application will do it, or if the English and Poison Ivey will come back.

If the Red Elder fruits ripen in late June for you then they should do by early June here for me. I have seen pictures only of the shrub in fruit and it looks so fanastic with all those red berry clusters just hanging there all over the shrubs.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2003 at 3:04PM
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The birds strip my chokecherry trees clean. The birds I notice eating most of the fruit are cedar waxwings, brown thrashers, eastern and western kingbirds, catbirds and robins. The tree is stripped early this year. The old timers tell me it's a sign of a hard winter a coming! Sure hope they're wrong.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2003 at 5:04PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

Well, I have read that Chokecherries (Prunus virginiana)are very popular with birds, thats why I got the seedlings. Now I have also read that Chokeberries (Aronia) are one of these fruit of last resort type things when the birds will eat them in winter if there is nothing else to eat.

At least in my yard that sure is not true!!! The Chokeberries are dissappearing off the shrub at a steady pace. Today I saw a Blackbird eating the Chokeberries. I didn't even know that Grackles (Blackbirds) ate shrub fruits. I have never seen one do so before.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2003 at 1:50PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

The Chokeberries are being eaten everyday by the Mockingbirds.

I did realize that I do also have the berries that the honneysuckle makes sometimes after it flowers. I thought of that after I saw a Catbird in there one day. Those honeysuckles are in back of my garage, where I have some gardens, but I can't see them unless I go alround there. By the time I do that, I scare off any birds that might be in there.

I also see the birds checking out the red fruits on these vines that grow wild all over the place. Don't know what they are called but they have small purple flowers and are in the nightshade family.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2003 at 3:18PM
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roseunhip(z5b QC)

If this vine has lance shape, trifoliate leaves, ain't it the Climbing Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)? Very common and invasive here too.
During my vacation on the Maine coast this summer (end of July/beg. August), I was surprised to see how much the local mockingbirds and catbirds seemed dependent on the honeysuckles near the sea to feed their youngs.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2003 at 8:28AM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

I wish I had a better view of the Honeysuckle berries so I'd know if anything is eating them. But they are supposed tp be attractive to birds. I have Trumpet Honeysuckle in yellow and reddish colors plus I have various Honeysuckle that makes the normal shaped Honeysuckle flowers.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2003 at 4:20PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

Geez!! The darn Chokeberries are ALL gone!!! Even though the birds eat some everyday, they just can't eat that many unless a flock of something greedy (and hungry) came by early in the morning when I am not around the yard.

I think it's more likely that the Racoons and Possums that roam around here nightly finished them off for dinner.

Obviously my one shrub is not enough. Plus I hardly have to worry about them hanging around until winter, when something else is not around for hungry wildlife.I am just trying to figgure how many more to get and just exactly were I want to put them.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2003 at 4:54PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

So, does anyone have birds eating the RED Chokeberries? Lots of conflicting information about how much the birds might like the red as compaired to the black.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2003 at 8:35PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

Most popular bird fruit now are the Winterberries.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2004 at 2:11PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

Well, I bought a nice 'Brilliantissima' at the Nursery today. It's about 40 inches tall, nice and full and loaded with bloom clusters.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2004 at 3:43PM
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I have chokeberries--one Brilliantissima and many blacks (the species). One particular black gets eaten, but I think that's because it's right next to a row of grey dogwoods that gets stripped clean the second the fruit ripens. I think it's just proximity--hey guys, we might as well polish these off as well. The other chokeberries seem to go untouched, expecially the brilliantissima, which is now blooming while full of last year's fruit. I think this is an example of something we should plant to provide year-round food supply. The twigs are also a favorite winter food of rabbits.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2004 at 8:09AM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

I think the Chokeberries are really pretty landscape shrubs. I am looking forward to see what eats the Red Chokeberry around here as my Black Chokeberries get eaten within a week of the berries getting ripe. No waiting for winter.

I like the pictures I have seen of the Reds in fruit and the way their leaves turn crimson colors in the fall.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2004 at 12:26PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

Well, I still am amazed at the fact that Black Chokeberries remain uneaten in peoples yards. My black Chokeberries are getting ripe now and I have even seen Grackles eating on them. All day long, Mockingbirds and Catbirds visit the Black Chokeberry Shrubs and scarf down the fruit.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2004 at 7:33PM
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lycopus(z5 NY)

I read recently that bears seem to like the chokeberries. The plants may have evolved with large mammals as the primary seed carriers. My black and red chokeberries don't get much attention from the birds and I find the taste of the black to be pretty decent. Nothing I'd make into a pie but they are sweet and just a little puckery. Yet the birds don't touch them. At the same time they are going nuts for the wild cherries and I can't eat one of those without gagging. The chokeberies are great plants and anything that holds fruit so late into winter is good for wildlife, even if they aren't the first choice of birds.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2004 at 8:38PM
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I have one black chokeberry right near a row of grey dogwood, several others in the miniwoodland. The berries on the one near the grey dogwood get eaten, but not until the dogwood berries ripen. Then the birds seem to eat anything in sight. The others never get eaten.

Just watched a young mockingbird dining on elderberries.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2004 at 2:50PM
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Elaine, Interesting observation. I personally believe that the birds are somehow driven to the berries around the middle to end of August. If I'm not mistaken that is when the dogwood berries ripen. I find that my bluebirds disappear around then only to return in the winter. Someone hypothesized that they need the sugar to bulk up for the winter. Not sure if that is true or not, but maybe that is why you notice the chokeberry eaten at the same time.

I have some junkie trees that were growing when I bought the place 20 years ago. Someone told me they were chokecherry, but I've never been sure. From my research, they look like black cherry. I know that when we have taken a couple down and left the stump, shoots start coming out of the stump like crazy. They do grow quickly and the branches break easily in the wind. The birds love them, so we usually leave them up. They have small branch type things in the spring covered with lacy white flowers. Then the berries grow on the little branches. I know I'm not using proper terminology, so forgive me. Can anyone help with an id?

    Bookmark   August 7, 2004 at 9:24PM
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It's probably black cherry, which suits your description and is a fast-growing canopy tree. And extremely important for wildlife, as most wild cherries are. Cherries are Prunus species--black cherry is P. serotina. ChokeCHERRIES are a member of this same genus--P. virginianum. That species is a small tree that suckers and produces many, many trunks. ChokeBERRIES belong to the genus Aronia. There are three species, with black, red, or purple fruits, and none grows to tree height. Chokeberries and chokecherries have nothing in common except for their common name, which shows you how important it is to use correct terminology to identify plants.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2004 at 5:11PM
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Thanks for the clarification. When I looked it up online, I really felt that we had the ID right of black cherry. I'm glad it has been persistent in coming back. I think we have them all over the northeast in edge areas. So what you are saying is that the choke cherry wouldn't grow that tall?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2004 at 5:58PM
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Chokecherry seems to top out at about 15 feet--it's an understory tree. It also suckers rather than forming a single trunk--more a large shrub than a tree. Black cherry is a small canopy tree--maybe 50 or 60 feet, tops. Around here they grow near water courses, along with silver maples, poplars, and sycamore (a riverine forest community). Both will attract myriad birds, insects, and caterpillars.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2004 at 7:57PM
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OK, now I'm sure that what I have is black cherry. The birds really love those trees. At the moment, my yard is devoid of robins and I'm sure they are munching every berry that they can get their beaks on.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2004 at 7:35AM
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Beautyberries seem to be the staple for my birds in the Winter. We compete for my Cherries in the Spring. I love to see them harvesting all the bugs throughout the Spring and Summer in my gardens.
Thanks for all the ideas of other things I can plant for them.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2004 at 2:24PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

The Beautyberries here seem to be only about half eaten so far with the ones toward the tips of the branches still there. Of course there are alot of other berries here for the birds to eat.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2005 at 1:55PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

If my Nanking Cherries ever make fruit, they should be a popular bird fruit also. They are really blooming like crazy this spring.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2005 at 10:32PM
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