Here's a question for you permies experienced with growing fruittrees and berry bushes: what less important fruit-bearing plants can you grow to draw robins, orioles, cedar waxwings, and other fruit-eating birds away from your food? I've read that birds are attracted to the fruit of crabapples, yews, hollies, red chokecherries, hackberries, Russian olives, and similar plants, but will they go after these berries instead of your apples, cherries, blueberries, etc? If not, what are in fact the best plants for luring them away?
Also, should they be planted separate from your orchards and food forests, lining the borders, or interspersed amongst them?
On the same subject, what are the best songbirds to try and attract to one's property in the Northeast? What birds eat the most insects without going after fruit and berries? Right now I'm looking at Barn Swallows, Red-Breasted Nuthatches, and Purple Martins. Sure there's Chickadees, Bluebirds, House Wrens, Flycatchers, etc, but of those insect killers which provide the least trouble for one's blackberries and sunflowers?
I have 3 apple trees and 1 crab apple tree near each other in my yard. In the fall, migratory robins will eat the crab apples - I have seen probably 40 birds in my one small tree. If I leave some apples on the trees long enough for them to start to get soft, the robins & starlings will eat the apples as well. But they only eat what I did not already pick. I have never had a bird eat off an apple that I was planning to harvest.
We also used to have a lot of Himalayan (invasive) blackberries in our yard, and the birds ate those once they started getting soft.
I have recently planted a lot of blueberries and other berries. I am planning to put bird netting over those if the birds get to them before I do.
A permie approach might be to put some Cooper's Hawk roosts near your berries (if you have any Cooper's Hawks). But you will also lose some birds to the hawk.
Another idea might be to plant some fruit/berry which ripens earlier than your fruit/berries, since in my experience the birds go for fruit that is soft. On the other hand that just might attract the whole flock to your yard?
For insect control, I would also add bats and swifts to your list. Those are both in trouble now, especially bats - they are in HUGE trouble and many of our bat species will likely go extinct. If you have any bats in your area, there is a good chance you can attract them to your yard with a bat house. For swifts, if you have a large chimney, remove the cap when the swifts are around.
Birds don't get lured away. They see it and they eat it. They don't miss much. Get up and go
outside 10 minutes prior to first light and just listen until the sun comes up. It can be an awesome thing
there are so many birds and such a variety of songs. I am trying bird netting on my blueberries this
Last year I quit filling the bird feeder and they ate all my blueberries to teach me a lesson. So this year
I am going to keep the bird feeder full and use the bird netting.
In my experience netting is the only way to save crops such as blueberries and sweet cherries. Last year a bumper crop of robins took nearly every berry from the blueberries while we were in between netting set ups. By the end of the season they were even eating the unripe berries. I've heard that mulberries will do the trick, but none of my mulberries or paw paws have seemed to have the allure to the robins. This year the birds are already hopping around the early flowering berries looking hopeful.
In answer to what birds go after bugs, All of them. Baby birds develop so rapidly that they require huge amounts of protein, so all parent birds catch insects to feed their young. However, some are insectivorous in all seasons--wrens are a great example. That needle like beak is designed to go into crevices after bugs. Woodpeckers are also dedicated bug hunters, as are martins and bluebirds which can be attracted with the right houses. Also, I'm told that starlings avoid sapsuckers, and of course screech owls are devestating to nocturnal rodent populations/sparrow hawks will deter sparrows--if you can draw them to your place with the right sort of housing, you'll have pest control that is always on the job with no feed and care expected of you beyond maintaining their houses yearly.