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So there are tomatoes in my backyard, and for some reason, nothing seems to eat them even though lots of birds visit the backyard, which surprises me. Do birds and rodents (mice and squirrels) have a preference for certain fruits? Like high calorie ones over low calorie ones?

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  • Your question reads more as mere curiosity than a gardening question... This is not the right place for questions on animal habits, likes & dislikes. You should try rephrasing your question from a gardening perspective as Mike Perry notes below. Sep 30 '11 at 4:47
  • @InquilineKea Is your questioned aimed in the direction of -- I would like to grow crops that are less effected by "large" pests?
    – Mike Perry
    Sep 30 '11 at 4:53
  • Hm - more along the lines of this: what types of fruit are most likely to be eaten by vertebrate pests? Sep 30 '11 at 8:45
  • Are there specific fruits you're considering growing that you need to know about?
    – Ed Staub
    Oct 2 '11 at 2:54
  • Hm - I'm curious about pears Oct 3 '11 at 13:08
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As far as I'm aware (which means very little), birds "generally" aren't interested in things like tomatoes, peppers, apples, pears...

When birds go after those types of crops (especially prior to ripening stage) it normally points to one of two things:

  1. They are extremely thirsty and after the moisture inside the fruit, vegetable.

  2. They are extremely hungry, their preferred food is so scarce, non-existent they are forced to scavenge.

On the other hand, fruit berries are a highly desirable food source for most birds.

Also as fruit matures (nears ripening stage) on tress (Peaches are a great example here), or is allowed to over ripen, it becomes highly attractive to birds. Why? I'm not 100% sure, but I would guess it has to do with:

  • Certain species of birds simply favour eating fruit eg

    • Bluebirds

    • Mockingbirds

    • Orioles

    • Robins

  • Built in instinct (survival mechanism to feed heavily while the going is good).

  • Smell given off during ripening period.

Some further reading from Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences:

On many farms or orchards, bird damage is minimal and growers choose to ignore the problem or just take the loss from birds into account as a management cost. For others, problems from birds can be substantial, resulting in the consumption of or damage to large portions of the fruit crop.

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  • 1
    Birds do go after the smallest peppers. Co-evolution is meant to have occurred with peppers producing capsaicin to deter mammals but remain edible to birds. Wild peppers are like this, and I assume bird peppers are so named because of it (and cf. my problem with mockingbirds going after ornamentals ). Peppers are fairly tough which is probably birds are limited to wild peppers and the smallest varieties that can be swallowed whole.
    – winwaed
    Sep 30 '11 at 14:33
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    To underline the "certain species simply favor fruit" - most of the ones you list are generalists. Some have evolved and adapted specifically for eating fruit, eg. Toucans. Toucans definitely prefer their fruit ripe & sweet: they will keep track of the local papaya and check in each day and leave them until they are ripe.
    – winwaed
    Sep 30 '11 at 14:37
  • @winwaed Agree! but in my defence I was trying to list birds that are "common" in most people's garden, landscape & are known to like eating fruit...
    – Mike Perry
    Sep 30 '11 at 14:40
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    Oh I know, I was trying to point out that there are also some that are specifically adapted to eating fruit (I used toucans because I've seen them do their "daily papaya rounds").
    – winwaed
    Sep 30 '11 at 14:43

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