Neighborhood Nature

Our Family's Nature Blog

Pokeweed Berries Ripening, Catbirds and Thrushes Coming Soon! September 3, 2009

On the first Friday in September I noticed ripe Pokeweed berries in our backyard:

These are the first ripe Pokeweed berries I've seen this year, and they are in our backyard!

These are the first ripe Pokeweed berries I've seen this year, and they are in our backyard!

Soon there will be catbirds, thrushes, and many other birds with purple-stained beaks!

Gray Catbirds have spent the last five summers in backyards on our block. They stopped defending their breeding territory weeks ago, but I’ve seen a Catbird visit our Pokeweed once or twice since then. I think they keep track of berry bushes in the neighborhood so they can be the first to feast once the berries are ripe.

Swainson’s Thrushes breed up north, and then migrate south through our area starting late summer. Yesterday I saw two in the woods at nearby Columbus Park. Last September a Swainson’s Thrush stuck around our neighbor’s yard for two weeks feeding on her Pokeweed berries. A few weeks later a Hermit Thrush stopped by to eat its fill.

One nice thing about Pokeweed is that it keeps producing berries for many weeks, September through October. In this photo you can see ripe berries and a tiny flower stalk just starting, plus all stages of flowers and green berries in between:

The ripe Pokeweed berries are hidden among the leaves. A newly opening white flower stalk is to the left and above the berries, and inbetween stages are scattered elsewhere on the plant. By the way, the oval leaves are Pokeweed; the larger heart-shaped leaves are a type of Morning Glory.

The ripe Pokeweed berries are hidden among the leaves. A newly opening white flower stalk is to the left and above the berries, and in between stages are scattered elsewhere on the plant. By the way, the oval leaves are Pokeweed; the larger heart-shaped leaves are a type of Morning Glory.

So, this fall’s backyard catbird and thrush watch starts today, and then continues for almost two months!

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Note added Friday, September 4, at 2 p.m.: Early this morning we saw the first bird of the season feeding on our Pokeweed. It was an American Robin (which is a kind of thrush). Then, while monitoring birds at Columbus Park (less than a mile from our house), I saw about a dozen Swainson’s Thrushes and three Catbirds. Three of the Thrushes and one of the Catbirds were feeding on Pokeweed berries.

Note added Sunday, September 6, at 3 p.m.: We just saw three Swainson’s Thrushes in our Pokeweed patch! Aaron got the following for-the-record photo through our back window:

One of the three Swainson's Thrushes we saw on our backyard Pokeweed. Photo by Aaron Gyllenhaal (shot through a sunlit back window).

One of the three Swainson's Thrushes we saw on our backyard Pokeweed. Note the olive-brown back, lots of spots on a pale breast, and big buffy "spectacles" around its eyes. Photo by Aaron Gyllenhaal (shot through a sunlit back window).

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You can find more information about Pokeweed on Wikipedia. Cooked Pokeweed greens can be eaten, but raw Pokeweed can be poisonous to humans, as described on this National Institutes of Health web page.

The All About Birds website has more information about how Gray Catbirds, Swainson’s Thrushes, and Hermit Thrushes live their lives

 

4 Responses to “Pokeweed Berries Ripening, Catbirds and Thrushes Coming Soon!”

  1. Pokeweed and Milkweed are two really cool plants that grace our yard, each with its own very different foliage, leaves, berries, colors, pods and creatures who visit them. No muss or fuss either. I have never ever watered the poke weed yet they are beautiful giving me loads of berries and flowers to use in my dried flower arrangements not to mention our southward heading friends stopping for a last gorge before leaving. On the other hand the milkweed produce the beautiful balls of flowers, the huge pods that burst and fill my yard w/ cotton come November and of course the monarch butterflies. I love mother nature and must remember that w/out Winter there would be no Spring.

    • Yes, Jessica, I really enjoy milkweed, too. I’ve noticed that many of my neighbors’ more formal gardens of non-native perennials often have a milkweed plant or two sticking out in odd places — a legal weed, I guess. My neighbors also must appreciate having a bit on Monarch food around, even if it wasn’t in their original plan.
      I also love the goldenrod that started growing in our garden about 10 years ago. It attracts lots of interesting bees and wasps, plus beetles and moths that try to look like they’re dangerous by copying bee colors.
      Eric

  2. Tree Hugger Says:

    I was wondering what that was in our backyard! Had no idea it was called pokeweed. This spring I ripped out a bunch of garlic mustard and the pokeweed came up in its place. I’ve never seen a swainson’s here. I’ll have to watch more closely now that we have something it eats. Felt lucky to see a scarlet tanager this spring. First one I’ve seen on our back hillside here in Southwest Ohio. Thanks for the informative post.


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