Bees and their pollination of berries helps UK birds and small mammals
Bird watchers go watching birds along field edges, woodlands and hedgerows, where in winter the influx of migratory birds adds more interest. Many birds eat berries or their seeds in the winter months. Some simply eat the whole fruit and after digesting it, become seed dispersers. Good examples of seed dispersers are blackbird, song thrush, red wing, robin, blackcap and starling. Other birds are berry seed predators, i.e. they are not really interested in the fruit, they want the seed. Good examples of seed predators could be woodpigeon, bullfinch, great tit, blue tit. I have watched greenfinches peck open the hips of dog rose and rosa rugosa to reveal the seeds upon which they eat, discarding the pulp.
Suffice to say, a blue tit is a seed predator of whitebeam fruits but also its pulp predator. With hawthorn berries (haws) blue tits are pulp predators, woodpigeon are dispersers but a seed predator with elder berries. There is a lot more, for example I have seen numerous bumblebees pollinate rowan flowers, the berries eaten by waxwing, blackbird, song thrush, mistle thrush and starling. It can get complicated and I don’t like complications!
I have devised this simple chart to show how many birds depend upon bees pollinating hedgerow berries. If you want more information see “Birds and Berries” below.
The above shows honeybee, bumblebee and solitary bees
In 2001 the Ivy Bee, (Colletes hederae) , was found in Dorset and as its name suggests, this mining solitary bee forages almost exclusively upon ivy flowers, flying from September to mid-November (ivy flowering time). An information sheet can be downloaded here and to see if the bee has reached your area yet see a BWARS 2013 map here.
You can download a PDF guide to berries by the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology)
Then of course there are several mammals that will eat berries, in particular mice.
If you would like a larger copy of the chart above, just ask me!
Besides my own experiences and observations…..
Snow B and Snow D, (1988)” Birds and Berries”, T & A D Poyser Ltd, Waterhouses, Staffs, UK.
Jacobs, J.H (2008)”The birds and the bees:pollination of fruit-bearing hedgerow plants and consequences for birds” PhD thesis Stirling University
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