Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Birds Eagerly Await Juneberries


Credit: Jimmy Macaluso

Since it is now June it means it’s time to visit my favorite “Lazy Birding” hotspot, the bench under the Serviceberry trees at DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst.

I can sit, rest, relax and let the Orioles, Cedar waxwings and Catbirds just come to me as they flock to feed on one of their favorite foods of the season, the sweet little purple berries of Amelanchier Canadensis or Serviceberry.

This wonderful native plant is also known as Juneberry because it bears its berries in the month of June. Sometimes it is called Shadbush because of its beautiful white flowers, which bloom even before the leaves come out and emerge at the same time the Shad fish begin to run in our rivers. But whatever name you choose, Serviceberry is one of the best plants for wildlife and an excellent addition to any backyard wildlife habitat.

Although there are various species of Serviceberry native to the U.S. which are all great, the Canadensis is the one most commonly found at garden centers and the species we use in our wildlife habitat restoration projects around Northern Jersey.  Considered a small, multi-stemmed tree that averages about 20 to 25 feet high, it does well in sun to part shade and likes moist well drained soil.


But the very best thing of all is that Serviceberry is a bird magnet!

Attractive to more than 40 species of birds, Serviceberries bears its fruit much earlier than most other plants, and it entices an amazing variety of bird species, from Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks and Scarlet Tanagers to Bluebirds and Baltimore Orioles. The berries are especially irresistible food for Cedar Waxwings, whose diet consists mostly of fruit.

In fact, Cedar Waxwings don’t begin to nest until later in the summer when there is plenty of fruit to feed the babies.  And let’s not forget the benefits of its stunning April white flower display that is so important to many species of pollinators, which in turn are fed upon by insect eating migratory birds. Serviceberry is the perfect native plant for any wildlife habitat.

And if that is not enough to persuade you to plant Serviceberries, they are great people food too! The delicious fruits, which are very similar to blueberries, are deliciously sweet. They can be used in recipes just like you would use a blueberry. I love them in my morning oatmeal.

I have had a lovely Serviceberry in my backyard for many years and the birds are happy to share the fruit (as long as I get to them first). But one has to be quick: for within a short time the berries will disappear until next spring.

As more and more wildlife habitat in the Garden State is lost to development it becomes more important than ever to introduce native plants like Serviceberry to our backyards, schoolyards and anywhere that a tree can be planted.

The Serviceberry’s beautiful spring flowers and its wonderful berries combined with its critical importance to wildlife make it a must have in any backyard wildlife habitat.

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