Fall is a time of abundance for wildlife and this year is no exception. Berries, acorns, nuts, and seeds are all available for the taking and the wild critters are eating as much as they can to gain the body weight that will help them get through the winter.
Here in central Virginia, it’s a good mast year – acorns from white, red, and chestnut oaks litter the ground. Acorns are high in carbohydrates, so they are a highly concentrated source of energy. More than 100 species of animals are known to consume acorns, including white-tailed deer, gray squirrels, fox squirrels, flying squirrels, mice, voles, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, gray foxes, and red foxes. Birds that feed on acorns include wild turkey, bobwhite quail, wood ducks, mallards, woodpeckers, crows, and jays.
Native fruit trees are another important food source for wildlife. Persimmon fruit ripens in late fall when other wildlife food is scarce and because the fruit falls a few at a time over a long period, it is available to species such as raccoons, fox, and many bird species during much of the winter.
Pokeberry is plentiful and the birds are already working on the hanging drupes of dark purple berries.
By this time of year, the grasses and wildflowers have gone to seed and those seeds will provide food for dozens of species of birds now through early spring. The picture below shows the kind of food-rich habitat that will keep the sparrow, finches, juncos, and phoebes busy all winter!
Goldenrod packs a double punch. Several birds, like finches, warblers, and indigo buntings, munch on its seeds. It’s also a popular overwintering site for insects, so birds get a well-balanced meal from one plant.
I could go on and on about the abundance of food that nature provides for her children, but you get the idea. I’m happy that while I’m enjoying my comfort foods this winter, I can rest assured that the wild creatures also have enough to eat. Of course, we still put out suet and bird seed for our feathered friends because watching their antics and listening to their calls brightens up the dreariest winter day!