Every morning and evening for the past few weeks, my beautyberry has been guarded by a very possessive mockingbird who does not want to share the luscious purple berries with any other bird. When a blue jay comes near, this cheeky fellow chases him away. When another mockingbird approaches the beautyberry, the two engage in an elaborate mock duel on the ground, hopping to and fro and all around each other. If they had tiny swords, they would look like exactly like they were fencing. En garde, monsieur! The "King" always emerges from these non-contact scuffles victorious, and immediately returns to his tree to plunder the berries.
No matter that there are plenty of berries to go around. Mockingbirds are very territorial, not to mention fearless -- who hasn't been strafed by an angry mocker during nesting season? Apparently they don't play well with others when it comes to berries.
I have always said watching my yard is better than watching any nature documentary. This mockingbird is an endless source of entertainment. I look for him every day and will miss him when the berry bonanza comes to an end, or he has had his fill.
For those unfamiliar with beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), it's a large shrub native to Florida with soft, velvety leaves. Beautyberry produces dainty clusters of white flowers in the spring that give way to berries that turn a lush vibrant purple by early fall. It flourishes in shady spots and is very drought-tolerant. Left to its own devices, it can get very sprawly and leggy, but doesn't mind pruning. I prune mine pretty heavily in the early Spring, giving it plenty of time to recover before berry-setting time in the late summer.
Some years my beautyberry doesn't get much attention from the birds until after Christmas. One year it seemed to be ignored completely. But this year there is early and intense interest in the berries (the 2013 crop must be exceptional) and this one determined mockingbird has decided the bush is his, all his!
I have bird feeders in my yard, as so many of us do, and I provide suet to help my feathered friends through the hardest part of the winter. But I always get more satisfactionfrom being able to provide natural food for the wild critters that share my urban yard, whether they are pollinators, possums, frogs or my new favorite, The King of the Beautyberry.
What plants have you provided for wildlife to eat in your garden?