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Birds and Elderberries

There might not be an actual answer to this question but any advice would be helpful. 

I have a large purple elderberry shrub, 'black lace'. It flowers really well and is now full of berries. The problem is that birds don't seem to eat them and I end up with loads of seedlings around it. I've never seen a bird eating them, not like they go for the amalanchier berries. Any ideas how I can encourage the birds to eat them? Probably a silly question but  I read
That they love them. 



  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 50,307
    The wood pigeons round here love elderberries. They were tucking into one yesterday when I was out  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • We have a few wood pigeons and collered doves around but not seen them eating berries yet.  :(
  • Yes, when I lived more rurally the woodpigeons and blackbirds would strip the elderberries off the hedgerows, sometimes even before I had a chance to get ripe ones for winemaking.

    I think that's a pointer to why the berries are remaining on your bush ... woodpigeons and even blackbirds are quite heavy birds and need a fairly substantial perch ... they can certainly snap the newer branches on my amelanchier when they're after those berries ... young elderberry branches can also be quite thin and flimsy ... sometimes quite brittle even ... when they're grown in a hedgerow they and the other types of growth ... blackthorn, hawthorn etc will have been cut back over the years to provide a more substantial perch from which the birds can reach out to the elderberries.  

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • I think they just don't recognise the fruit. Birds have an order in the colour of berries they eat apparently, which explains why they strip all the red berries off my pyracantha but not the yellow ones on the pyracantha next to it. In the case of the elderberries, if it's a black lace like I have then the berries are pinky and I've never seen a bird eat them even though a neighbour has the native species and it gets stripped.
  • Our wonderful elder is being at this moment stripped off the berries by........pigeons. Bane of our lives at the moment.
    Can't they at least allow us to harvest the berries for the next wine making as we always leave more than enough for them. This year it seems as though they wont wait.
  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 1,347
    Elderberries are an important food source for migrating warblers.  All those carbs enable them to progress.  You don't say where you live but I live on a migration route in Sussex. Early mornings are the best time to see them.
    Based in Sussex, I garden to encourage as many birds to my garden as possible.
  • We have a Black Lace that has been allowed to grow fairly tall and the Wood Pigeons will go to great lengths to get at the berries, often bending branches to the point I'd really expect them to snap off but somehow don't.

    It may just be as Dovefromabove suggests that the branches aren't sturdy enough on yours yet to let them get at them.

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 50,307
    I'd agree - if the plant is young, and branches aren't hardened up enough, it can be difficult for 'heftier' birds to get a good, secure foothold.
    Certainly, if the berries are pink, they're lower down the pecking order too - literally. White is usually the last to be eaten, although if you get waxwings, they'll eat those if other sources are thin on the ground - or the trees.  ;)
    Some reds don't get eaten at all either, although they are first to get snaffled up. One of the cotoneasters keeps it's berries all winter. I've forgotten it's name, even though I have it in the garden. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Even if they do eat the berries it won't end your weeding problem  either. They will just distribute the seeds over a wider area (with added fertiliser!) so elders could, and do, pop up just about anywhere :)
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 50,307
    Like the cotoneasters @Buttercupdays. I've already plucked out a fair number this year  ;)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
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