Native Plant Profile... Highbush,
Stunning red fall foliage
and sweet fruits provide landscape interest.
Great for naturalizing in woodlots
and as a groundcover.
Native Plant Profile:
Grows three feet high, although averages about two feet, upright and much
branched, spreading two to four feet. Occurs naturally in dry soils of meadows
and forests, often with blueberries. Can form dense stands of undergrowth.
Flowers: Clusters of
greenish to reddish white small (1/4 inch long) bell-shaped flowers that bloom
from May to June.
Leaves: They are alternate, short-stalked
and simple. Leaves are elliptical in shape with sharp-pointed tips. Underneath
the leaf are small resin dots, which give the leaves a sticky feel to the touch.
Twigs and Bark: Twigs are slender reddish
and hairy. Blueberries have warty specks on twigs; huckleberries do not.
Fruit: Shiny black, sometimes blue or blue
with whitish cast, berries that are edible. Found from June to September.
Blueberries have a large number of small seeds in their fruit, whereas
Huckleberries have 10 seeds per fruit.
Landscape Notes: Stunning red fall foliage
and sweet fruits provide landscape interest. Great for naturalizing in woodlots
and as a groundcover. Does best with an acid pH in its soil and light shade to
full sunlight. It is fairly trouble free from most pests.
Other Huckleberries: Box Huckleberry (Gaylussacia
brachyceara), Dwarf Huckleberry (Gaylussacia dumosa), Tall
Huckleberry (Gaylussacia frondosa) all of these are found in eastern
Huckleberries provide food for: Turkey,
Ruffed grouse, Bobwhite Quail, Mourning Doves, Common Flicker, Red-Headed
Woodpecker, Eastern Kingbird, Great –crested Flycatcher, Blue Jay, Mockingbird,
Catbird, Brown Thrasher, American Robin, Wood Thrush, Eastern Bluebird, Cedar
Waxwing, Orchard Oriole, Scarlet Tanager, Rufous-sided Towhee, Black Bear, Gray
Fox, Fox squirrel, Gray Squirrel, White-tailed deer.
Huckleberries provide larval food
for: The Huckleberry Sphinx, (Paonias astylus). Henry’s Elfin
and the Brown Elfin will sometimes lay their eggs on the plant.
Huckleberries provide shelter for:
Turkey, Ruffed Grouse, Bobwhite Quail, Mourning Dove, Mockingbird, Catbird,
American Robin, and Rufous-sided Towhee.
Huckleberries provide nesting
places for: Mockingbird, Catbird, and American Robin.
Huckleberries serve as a nectar
source for: Bumblebees and other native wild bees, which serve as
the pollinating agents for the plant.
This songbird, noted for its white throat patch and
a yellow spot between the bill and eye, is a member of the sparrow
family. It is also well known for its song of the late fall and winter
which sounds like “Old Sam Peabody Peabody” or “Oh Sweet Canada, Canada’
which both sexes sing. The distinct call song of “Tseet” which the bird
sings when searching for other sparrows is a part of the sounds of autumn. The White-throated Sparrow is one native sparrow that may be found in the
suburbs and urban areas in the fall and winter.
Range in Maryland: White-throated Sparrows migrate
from the North to Maryland in late October and stay until late April to
early May. These sparrows can sometimes be found in Garrett County Maryland other times
of the year.
Description: Besides the distinctive white throat
patch and yellow spot between the eye and bill, the bird is one of the
larger sparrows - about 7” in length. Its tail is somewhat forked. The bill
is blackish in color. Legs are pinkish. Breast feathers are gray. A similar species, the
White-crowned Sparrow, has a pink bill, and lacks the white throat and yellow
face spot. These birds are
polymorphic, meaning adults that have white brown and tan head stripes seem
to always mate with those with black and white head stripes. Indiana State
University has an excellent web site on this subject at
Habitat: White-throated Sparrows prefer open
deciduous or mixed deciduous-evergreen woods, thickets, shrubs and brush
piles in residential areas. Leafy ground within or near woods are key
habitat requirements in the fall and winter.
Food Habits: These sparrows forage primarily on the
ground. They prefer to scratch in leaves for insects and seeds. White-throated Sparrows are noted for their noisy scratching.
They will come readily
to bird feeders and also ground feed with a seed preference for sunflower and
white millet. In the early spring these birds will also consume buds from
shrubs and trees.
Additional Information: Although still found
abundantly in its winter range the White-throated Sparrow is declining in
its breeding range in the North. Juncos and White-throated Sparrows although
different species occasionally mate! The hybrid bird looks like a grayish
White-throated Sparrow with Junco-like tail feathers.
Listen to the
Planting for Wildlife with your Children
If families enjoy
gardening, or just enjoy watching nature,
it is a
good chance that the children will too!
Fall is a good time to plant trees and shrubs for wildlife. Autumn
planting follows the summer heat and precedes the cold of winter. Plant
roots grow anytime soil temperatures are at least 40 degrees. A plant’s
root system can become established before spring arrives and can take
full advantage of spring growth. Ball and burlapped trees and shrubs, if
planted in the fall, have time to recover from transplanting.
Plan before you plant and include the children in this process. Try a
native tree or shrub, which is already adapted to the growing conditions
and the environment of the area. Have the children pick out the tree(s)
or shrubs at the nursery. Prior to going the children may wish to check
out the sun and soil conditions of the site to make sure what they are
planting is appropriate for the area. Let them pick plants that appeal
to their sight, feel and sense of smell. Giving the children ownership
of the plants will create a desire in the to help care for the plant.
Let the children record the dates of planting and make predictions when
the first leaves will appear on their plants in the spring. You might
want to have the children take pictures of planting the trees, and then
have them take pictures of the plants at least once a year to observe
the growth. They might want to make a comparison of their growth to the
Once the plants are established, you might want to make a craft
project with your children from the leaves or twigs. Leaf prints are a
good one to try. The Kansas City Public Library has a website describing
how to Make a Leaf Print:
Research has found and continues to find that adults have positive
attitudes towards wildlife and nature if they had positive childhood
experiences planting for the environment.
Seed Preferences in
Nearly 5,000 people in the mid 1990’s turned their backyards through out
North America into science labs.
They spread a variety of birdseed out,
then watched from their windows to see which food birds liked best:
black-oil sunflower seed, white millet or red milo.
The mission of the experiment was to turn bird watchers into “citizen
scientists”. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology based in Ithaca, New York
Seed Preference Test
with support from the National
Approximately a half a million birds visited squares of cardboard that
served as bird feeders for the experiment. Data was gathered on the
feeding habits of more than 30 different bird species.
Scientists had studied the food preferences of wild birds but in just a
few locations. The Seed Preference Test was the first attempt to gather
information on a vast geographic scale.
What did the Seed Preference Test find?
Birds that usually feed in trees – including American Gold finches,
White –Breasted Nuthatches and House Finches seem to prefer sunflower
seeds. Birds that are ground feeders –Juncos, Mourning Doves and many
sparrow species, prefer millet. The birds that only live in western
North American eat more milo than eastern species do.
The western preference for milo is interesting. Seed Preference Test data
suggest that species such as Black Capped Chickadees and Mourning Doves
show an East-West difference in eating habits. Western Chickadees and
Mourning Doves ate less sunflower and more milo and millet than their
eastern relatives. House Finches are another example of the East-West
split. Eastern House Finches ate sunflower seed 85% of the time compared
to 71% for Western House Finches.
These seed preference findings have left scientists with many interesting
Are Western birds generalized feeders?
Why do Eastern birds
show such a preference for black-oil sunflower seed?
Could it even be
that the habits of bird feeders are different enough in the regions of
to influence the food birds chose?
Hopefully we will see
additional research on these guides in the future.
Here is some general information on the seed to use
in your bird feeding if you are located in the Eastern United States.
|Black Oil Sunflower
|Study after study confirms that this seed is the most
utilized seed at bird feeders. Black oil sunflower has a thin shell so
all types of bird beaks easily break it. Its high oil, fat and protein
content provide needed energy for wintertime birds.
|This tiny black birdseed is usually grown in
Africa and Asia. It is not the thistle that one sees growing
along the roadside or abandoned fields. It is a preferred food
for finches and Indigo Buntings (early Spring) with its high
|This seed has high fat, protein and oil content. Cardinals will
use it and it can be a solution to many squirrel problems at feeders.
Grackles and Starlings are species that keep more desirable birds away.
Putting out safflower seed is a way to reduce their numbers. It does
take time for birds to adapt. As long as a month is not unusual. But
once available Cardinals will seek it out. Finches and Grosbeaks will
also use the seed.
|Note: Corn and millet although eaten by a variety of birds will
often attract grackles, starlings, pigeons and squirrels that will chase
or crowd out more desirable songbirds.
Remember, the best way to have
songbirds in your backyard
is to plant trees and shrubs to provide year
round food and cover.
For additional information on Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology Citizen
If you enjoyed this issue of Habichat, you might want to check out
our online back issues and clickable listing of Habichat articles.
Click here for online back issues.
Photograph of Huckleberry shrub in meadow, courtesy of NPS,
Photo by JR Douglass; 1970.
Photograph of White-throated Sparrow courtesy of
White-throated Sparrow courtesy of Ron Wolf, Calphotos. All rights reserved.
Photograph of White-throated Sparrow courtesy of Pat
Lynch, USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Patuxent Wildlife
Song of White-throated Sparrow courtesy of USGS Patuxent
Bird Identification InfoCenter, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.
Photograph of low shrub layer of Black Huckleberry (Gaylussacia
baccata) in autumn courtesy of Gary P. Fleming, Virginia Dept. of
Conservation & Recreation.
Photograph of Black Huckleberry in flower, courtesy of
Kitty Kohout and the Wisconsin State Herbarium.
Photograph of Black Huckleberry in fruit, courtesy of
Robert W. Freckmann and the Wisconsin State Herbarium.
Photograph of a student at Centreville Middle School
planting a tree as part of an outdoor classroom being built on the school
grounds, courtesy of Keith Weller, Natural Resource Conservation
Photograph of making leaf print, courtesy of the Kansas
City, Kansas Public Library.
Here is a listing of phone numbers, web sites and organizations that you might find helpful or interesting in your search for ideas to manage your wild acres.
DNR Online... Inspired by nature!
Project FeederWatch is a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders at
backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locales in North
America. FeederWatchers periodically count the highest numbers of each
species they see at their feeders from November through early April.
FeederWatch helps scientists track broadscale movements of winter bird
populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance. Project
FeederWatch is operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in partnership
with the National Audubon Society, Bird Studies Canada, and Canadian
Nature Federation. http://birds.cornell.edu/pfw
National Wildlife Federation - Details on their backyard habitat program www.nwf.org or call them at 1-800-822-9919.
Native plants - The Maryland Native Plant Society offers information dedicated to protecting, conserving and restoring Maryland's native plants and habitats, visit them at
Maryland Cooperative Extension offers home and garden information, tips publications, plant problems, Bay issues, and other links at
Their Home and Garden Information number is statewide and can be reached at
1-800-342-2507, and from outside Maryland at 1-410-531-1757.
Bioimages, a project of
Vanderbilt University, provides educational information to the public on
biologically related topics, as well as a source of biological images for
personal and non-commercial use.
Maryland's "Becoming an Outdoors - Woman Program
"- One of the topics covered in the three-day workshops is Backyard
For a free wildlife & native
plant newsletter, visit the WindStar Wildlife Institute at
and subscribe to the WindStar Wildlife Garden Weekly e-newsletter. You can
also visit this website to learn how you can become a certified wildlife habitat
For more information on butterflies - visit the North American Butterfly Association at
Warm season grasses and wild meadows for upland nesting birds visit Pheasants
Forever at www.pheasantsforever.org or e-mail:
We want to hear from you!
Letters, e-mail, photos, drawings. Let us know how
successful you are as you create wildlife habitat on
Write to Me!
Natural Resources Biologist II
Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service
MD Dept of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Ave., E-1
Annapolis MD 21401
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Click here for online back issues.
Habichat, the newsletter for Maryland's Stewards of Backyard Wildlife, is published by the Wildlife and Heritage Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
The facilities and services of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources are available to all without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, national origin, physical or mental disability. This document is available in alternative format upon request from a qualified individual with a disability.