The Taste Of Summer

If someone were to rummage through our recyclables, they would notice an inordinate number of empty grape jelly jars during the summer months. Do we have a sweet tooth? Yes.

Are we responsible for the consumption of these vast amounts of jelly? No.

So who is?

It’s actually several members belonging to our avian garden club who regularly frequent the buffet we set out for them. Bullock’s Orioles gladden our eyes with their brilliant orangeness for a few short months only, and in addition to insects and nectar, have a fondness for fruit that either shares their color, or is red or purple. Or for products made from said fruit, such as dark jellies. They have been regular visitors at our feeding stations ever since I heard of that preference a few years ago and started offering orange halves and spoonsful of grape jelly on a special attachment to the bird feeder pole. (As an aside, I enjoyed learning that both spoonsful and spoonfuls are possible plural forms of spoonful.)

Observation has taught me that the avian version of a sweet tooth (? sweet beak) is not limited to orioles, who have to share their fruity treats with American Robins and House Finches, as well as with Western Tanagers while they stop over during spring migration. Lately I have also watched juvenile chickadees embark on a culinary adventure by jumping on the jelly train.  All this traffic in the buffet line occasionally leads to a bit of elbowing (or rather winging), but as best as I can tell, everyone who wants to partake usually succeeds. In contrast to a buffet for human visitors, the jelly does not get bottomless refills and is typically limited to two tablespoons twice a day.

To enlarge a photo, click on it. To read its caption, hover the cursor over it.

Juvenile American Robin/Juvenile Wanderdrossel

Juvenile being fed grape jelly by one of the parents/Das Drosseljunge wird mit Traubengelee gefüttert

Juvenile begging for more food/Das Junge bettelt um Futter

Tired juvenile with a full tummy/Müdes Drosseljunges mit vollem Magen

PS: If you happen to take issue with this post’s content, it’s only since I contemplated writing it that I have become aware of concerns about feeding birds high-fructose corn syrup, one of the ingredients in most—though not all—preparations of grape jelly. There is no evidence that it harms birds, but since it’s not part of their natural diet, I will, in the future, make an attempt to purchase jelly without that questionable food additive (which should be taken out of circulation in general, for everybody’s sake). As far as we know, sugar is not harmful either.

64 thoughts on “The Taste Of Summer

  1. Do you think executives at Smucker’s or any other jelly company know that people put out their products for birds to eat? If so those executives must be happy about it.

    I did a search just now for “jelly without high-fructose corn syrup” (without the quotation marks) and got plenty of hits. One of those from 2008 noted that “Most of the organic jellies, jams, and preserves do not use HFCS, and more and more brands are offering an organic option.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I imagine that jelly companies are aware of the fact, though I haven’t seen them use it as an advertisement point. The only reason I have been buying Smucker’s lately is that, somehow, it has been more economical per ounce than no-brand jellies.

      Thank you for looking up HFCS-free products. I have looked at a few alternatives also and will do so again when summertime rolls around next year. The orioles, alas, will leave us soon, and I usually use their departure to terminate that part of the bird buffet.


  2. Great that you have a relatively straightforward way of attracting these stunning birds to your garden. Definitely worth doing, but I’m not aware of any British birds that would fall for the bait (though they would in any case be confused by the terminology: what you in the US call “jelly” is “jam” to us here! “Jelly” to us is something a little different).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love watching them all summer long, though at times I worry that feeding them food not part of their natural diet could be detrimental. I hope not!

      I assume that the British jelly is similar to the American jello. The German word “Wackelpudding” is so descriptive. A literal translation into English would be “quivering,” “shaking,” “wobbling,” or “wiggling” pudding.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, jelly = jello, though I’d forgotten the US word until I saw your comment (I’m not a fan of jelly/jello, and try to put it out of my mind whenever possible!)

        But I I do love “wackelpudding”…what a word! 🙂. If, 50+ years ago, I’d known German had words like that in it, I’d probably studied it – rather than French – at school.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Like you, I’m not a fan of jello, jelly, or Wackelpudding, though as a kid I used to enjoy it.

        German words tend to be very descriptive. Another fun example is Stinktier (stink animal) for skunk, or Stachelschwein (quill pig) for porcupine. I like the fact that one can create one’s own long nouns by combining several individual words.

        But if you had studied German, you would have had to learn cases, similar to Latin, and I think that’s more difficult than French. French also sounds far more elegant than German, so you shouldn’t feel bad about having chosen it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Languages are not really my thing. I agree with you about the sound of French, but never mastered speaking it. I quickly gave up Latin, though there have been times since when I wish I’d persevered with it. As for German, my knowledge pretty much begins and ends with the sentence “Zwei Bier, bitte!”

        “Stinktier” made me laugh. It’s also a reminder that plenty of words in contemporary English language – stink, for example – have Germanic roots.


      • I also wish I had been more enthused about Latin when I had to learn it as it forms the basis for so many different languages. In general, I wish I had taken more foreign language classes as I have always been jealous of those people said to speak 5 or 6 or 7 languages fluently.
        Your knowledge of German will assure that you will survive as two beer would give you enough daily fluids and sustenance, at least for a limited time.

        Liked by 1 person

      • My chances of survival would be much greater in Greece where, thanks to a summer Inter-Rail visit with 5 university friends in the mid-1970s, I am able to order SIX beers (éxi býres / έξι μπύρες). Needless to say it’s the only Greek I know, but it served me well that summer! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Inter-Rail was great: I did two big trips in my university years. These were the first times I’d ever been abroad without my parents, and they were something of a rite pf passage. I also drank a lot of beer 🙂.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You would therefore have been a most welcome travelling companion…I have to confess that today I’m not really bothered, but in my student days beer helped keep me sane (that’s my excuse anyway, and I’m sticking to it! 🙂 )

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Sorry, it has been proven scientifically that sugar can be bad for man and animal.

    We should avoid consume too much of it, and for feeding animals we should leave it aside, only to use the natural elements (grains, nuts…) and if we want to give them peanut butter (in Winter), it should be without additives.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment.
      Too much sugar is, of course, detrimental. But it’s proven that birds only supplement their natural diet by visiting feeders and the amounts they ingest is very small. Feeding hummingbirds sugar water (without food coloring, of course) is a long-established tradition and even the Cornell Lab of Ornithology condones it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great question, Christa. Interestingly, the ants are not into the jelly. What they are into, though, is the sugar water in the hummingbird feeders. Somehow, they smell it, crawl up a tree or a feeder pole, then crawl down the hook that holds the feeder and through the little holes into the sugar water, where they either get drunk or float until I release them in the evening (some have even survived until the next day), or die a sweet death.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Terrific photographs!

    I keep trying to eliminate all the bad stuff from my diet but I am apparently a failure in this regard. I’ll try instead to remember what my mother admonished: “Moderation.”

    (As I write this, I’m preparing to grill some wurst which will be nestled into a brotchen with spicy senf and will be accompanied with kraut and home-fried potatoes. Pretty sure this is all healthy stuff, so, no worries.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Moderation is a goal I aspire to also, and at times my aspirations meet with success, but more often than not they don’t.

      I’m so glad to hear to hear about your well-balanced, moderated mid-week meal and hope it brought you great culinary pleasure.


    • Thank you, Kerry. I love sitting in the yard and taking photo of the birds as they come and go.

      Like you, I have put out apple slices at times but, interestingly they haven’t triggered any interest, at least among the birds. I know that non-avian critters come by at night and vacuum the area below the feeders (which we bring in at night because of bears), but we try not to put out anything extra as they sometimes cause problems (especially the skunks).

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Eliza. Cornell is my go-to place for expert advice also. We have several hummingbird feeders, and I follow their suggestions meticulously, but when I tried to find more info on jelly, the consensus didn’t seem so clear.


  5. Ich glaube, dass es hier ganz unüblich ist Gelee zu füttern.
    Jedenfalls habe ich noch nie davon gehört.
    Wenn es den Vögeln bekommt ist doch alles in Ordnung.
    Sie futtern ja auch jede Menge Obst.
    Lustige und schöne Bilder hast du gemacht Tanja.
    Liebe Grüße Brigitte

    Liked by 1 person

    • Danke für Deinen Kommentar, liebe Brigitte.

      Manchmal frage ich mich. woher die Unterschiede in den Empfehlungen kommen, und ob sie wirklich wissenschaftlich belegt sind, oder eher von alten Traditionen abgeleitet sind. Die Frage z.B., ob wir Vögel das ganze Jahr über füttern sollen, oder nur im Winter, darüber haben wir auch schon mal diskutiert.

      Ich möchte natürlich nichts tun, was unseren gefiederten Freunden schaden könnte, doch manchmal ist das halt nicht so eindeutig.

      Herzlichen Gruß,

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Impressed you have Western Tanagers – I love those birds only managed to get my first look at one a few years ago while out in Tahoe. Those Bullock’s’ (or maybe Bullock’ses) are nice as well and juvi Robins always make me smile. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for flitting by and sampling some of our Western fare. There is something exotic about yellow and especially orange birds that seems to trigger an additional layer of awe, and I’m always elated when they spend part of their year with us.

      And watching baby robins is another highlight of the summer.


  7. Great observations… We’ve seen some birds dip into the hummingbird nectar feeder. I wish I could remember which one it was. Perhaps a finch? They are all such fun to observe. Then I remember having a holly tree at a previous house and the robins would get drunk on the berries and crash into the window, leaving a feather or two behind. They were all lined up on the fence next to the tree, waiting a turn.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Gunta. The orioles sometimes visit the hummingbird feeders, as do our House Finches. The formers’ beaks are thin enough to actually enter those small holes, but the finches’ aren’t. I think they tip the feeders and lap up the sugar water as it flows out! Another example of food/hunger leading to inventiveness.


      • Sugar isn’t evil. Even floral nectar — the most important reward offered to pollinators — contains sucrose, glucose, and fructose.

        As for the birds, all it takes is a little time spent with the Cornell Panama Fruit Feeder Cam to see how much the birds (and lizards) enjoy their bananas, oranges, papaya, and mangoes. All of those fruits contain sugars, and they’re important primary foods or supplements for the birds. Offering jelly or oranges to birds that enjoy those things is no different than my offering dried mealworms during the time when mockingbirds, starlings, wrens, and chickadees are raising their babies. the busy parents appreciate them; they make a fine supplement to the caterpillars, snails, and such that they search out.

        Now that I think of it, there are other fruits that certain birds love. Mockingbirds and cardinals will eat figs. Grackles love blueberries and dewberries, and friends who have grape arbors rarely get fruit because the birds get there first. As far as I know, grape jelly’s made from grapes!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for your comment, Linda. You are right, of course, and I’m not really too worried about adding some simple table sugar to the birds’ diet. What concerns me more are all the other additives, such as HFCS. But then again, I think the amounts consumed are relatively small compared to overall dietary intake.
        I might, of course, try to find a way to offer real grapes, or other dark fruit, though I think they would mostly end up on the lawn, which might turn fairly messy.


  8. We have Orchard and Baltimore Orioles around these parts. Your Bullock’s Oriole is slightly different. The Scarlet Tanager that comes to our yard is very different than yours. They are both striking!
    The Smuckers Concord Grape Jam brought a smile to my face. Concord grapes were first found wild in Concord, Massachusetts in the 1800s and developed from there. Maybe you and I and the birds are enjoying a taste that Thoreau also enjoyed? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • We also have Orchard Orioles, Julie, and an occasional Baltimore’s, but they are still considered rare, even though they seem to be expanding their range.
      It is intriguing to imagine Thoreau eating jelly made from the same grapes that are used now, though I’m sure he didn’t have to worry about high fructose corn syrup in his days.
      I hope you are enjoying your summer.


  9. Love these photos, Tanja! So sweet!! I am going to put a little jelly out when our weather cools in a few weeks to see if any of my birds like it. I do presently go through a lot of grape jelly but it’s for my grandboys and their fave PB&Js. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Donna, I have enjoyed watching and photographing all the beautiful visitors to our feeders.
      I’m curious to learn if your birds will be interested in your jelly. I have noticed that there seems to be a decreased appetite for sweet things in the last several weeks. Some of it is likely related to the fact that some of the orioles have already left us, but even the finches and robins seem to be more interested in different foods.

      Liked by 1 person

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