Berries of the Washington hawthorn, Crataegus phaenopyrum
These cheery red berries are the autumn fruit of a thorny little Washington hawthorn tree I planted about a dozen years ago. I got it in a bundle of ten free ornamental trees from Arbor Day Foundation.
Washington Hawthorns bloom late in spring, so this tree's blossoms were not affected by the late freeze last spring. It's loaded with berries. In fact, I think it has the most fruit of any tree I've seen this fall. Many of the fall-fruiting trees and shrubs have nothing at all because their blossoms were frozen.
American Wildlife and Plants (see bibliographic info at the bottom of this page) has the following comment about hawthorn berries:
The small apple-like fruits are not used by wildlife to nearly so great an extent as might be anticipated. Fox sparrows and cedar waxwings are the principal songbird users.
The authors note that up to 25% of the diets of fox sparrows and cedar waxwings may consist of hawthorn berries, in areas where hawthorns are common. They also list about a dozen birds and over a dozen small and large animals that include small amounts of hawthorn berries in their diets (up to 2% of their total diet.)
In a winter of scarce food, I suspect those birds and animals would be glad enough to find a hawthorn tree full of berries.
Hawthorns belong to the rose family, as you might guess when you experience their long, sharp thorns. They are a favorite nesting place for birds. The mockingbirds have a nest in this tree every year.