Helping Our Fine Feathered Friends Make It Through These (Hopefully) Last Weeks of Bitter Cold

American Robin Crabaplle ©Kim Smith 2015

Outside my office window is a pair of stately hollies, our “Dragon Ladies;” aptly named for their prickly foliage, and adjacent to the hollies is a sweet scented flowering crabapple. The autumn fruits of this particular crabapple are chunkier than most and, I simply assumed, must bear the worst tasting fruit imaginable because year in and year out, the fruit is never, ever eaten by the birds. When flocks of robins arrive in our garden in late January, the winterberry and hollies are stripped bare of their fruits in a day, or two, at the most, after which the robins head to our neighbor’s sumac and then further down Plum Street to our other neighbor’s smaller and much better tasting crabapples.

American Robin eating in crabaplle tree Turdus americanus ©Kim Smith 2015Not this year! A pair of robins is setting up house along the garden path and they vigorously defend the crabapples from other robins. In late winter, robins typically switch over to worms, but with the ground still frozen solid, they are continuing to look for tree fruits. Unfortunately, much of it has been consumed.

American Robin eating crabaplle Turdus migratorius ©Kim Smith 2015

Repeatedly, I noticed that our robin couple was struggling to eat the crabapples. They would snip off a stem and then drop it onto the brick path below and peck and peck and peck. A robin’s bill did not evolve to crack open grains and as it seems in this case, nor for penetrating our unusually hard crabapples. A great deal of energy was being spent to get a morsel of food, which is never a good thing because it can leave a creature weakened and at risk of freezing to death.

Robin flying ©Kim Smith 2015Robin in flight

I picked a few berries and made a crabapple mash, placed it under the tree and, within hours, all the fruits were devoured! Now when feeding the pets and filling the bird feeders each morning I pluck a small handful of crabapples, mash, and place in the pie tin below the tree. I’ve experimented with adding blueberries and raspberries to the dish, but the robins prefer the crabapples.

If we move very slowly when walking down the path, they now allow us to come quite close—and what a treat to observe from this distance—beautiful, beautiful robins!

American Robin Turdus americanus ©Kim Smith 2015JPG

Do you think we will be rewarded with a nearby nest? I hope so!

Crabapple in snow ©Kim Smith 2015

10 thoughts on “Helping Our Fine Feathered Friends Make It Through These (Hopefully) Last Weeks of Bitter Cold

  1. What a wonderful story including the amazing photos. I’m feeling very guilty as I have a wreath of berries on my front door that have been shellacked, I’ve noticed lately that some birds (mainly huge crows) are trying to pull them off and eat them. I’ve put other food nearby, and my neighbor has a cornucopia of bird seed/food/baths next door, but I think I’ll need to remove the wreath though I love it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Jenn, very glad you enjoyed.

      I think your wreath is going to get ruined. Can you save it for next year? Hopefully, we won’t have another winter like this two years in a row!

      Like

  2. OMG Award winning looking photographs. Just gorgeous…. Thank you for this. I too worry about the birds out in this. Thankfully will be warming up next week for the little ones.

    Like

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