The birds never eat the berries on my winterberry hollies (Ilex verticillata 'Red Sprite'), but the deer do. Like clockwork, the herds check their calendars and when it says November 15, they send the word out -- "Winterberrries are ready. They're ripe now. Let's go eat."
And they arrange to meet in my garden and have a hollyberry party.
|Apparently winterberry fruits are not yet ripe in early fall. No wildlife touches them at this stage.|
|These are ripe. Every berry below this level has been eaten by Thanksgiving.|
|Ilex verticillata stripped bare except for the topmost berries.|
Those last uneaten berries at the top of the shrub stay there all winter. You'd think the birds would at least eat what the deer leave, but they don't. There must be a territory issue, with the birds respectfully leaving the hollies untouched for the deer herds, or maybe after the initial feasting, the berries go stale later in the season. Who knows what rules are followed out there, I am only the gardener.
You'd also think when the deer are starving in winter they would come back for those remaining fruits, and stretch a little to get what is just inches above their browse height.
They're not that far out of reach, but my deer don't make the effort to get anything above four feet three inches, so the berries hang on.
Maybe late in the season those top winterberries are like the sludge at the bottom of your cereal bowl. Just not that appetizing after a while.