Monday, December 1, 2014

Winter Berries 4

I related in yesterday's post how I did not cut down a Winged Sumac tree that was growing naturally at the top of our driveway. I knew Eastern Bluebirds liked to eat the berries. What I didn't realize is how many other birds also like to eat the tiny berries. The Hermit Thrush was one of the first birds I saw eating berries from the panicles or clusters of fruit.

Like Bluebirds, the American Robin is also a thrush. Maybe it is just coincidence that all three enjoy the Sumac berries. This photo was taken in January with snow on the ground, so the Robin wasn't exactly the first sign of spring.

Perhaps the biggest surprise visitor to the Sumac was the Yellow-shafted Flicker. They are just about the most ornate bird I have ever seen - at least for the North American continent. There are probably many tropical birds that would give it a run for its money, but there are not many others in North America that have so many varied designs on their feathers.

Males have a black mustache while females (previous photo) do not

Flickers, unlike other woodpeckers - and they are a woodpecker - flock up in the winter months. They are the only woodpecker you are more likely to spot on the ground than in a tree. They love to eat ants and can be seen, even in winter, probing the ground with their bills for ants or larvae. They probably turned to the Sumac because the ground was largely covered by snow. There were many Bluebirds as well as Flickers on the Sumac, but the lens I was using did not allow me to include more than one or two at a time in an image.

One winter, we had a flock of ten or fifteen on the lawn probing the ground for worms or ants. Snow was falling, but the ground was not quite covered. All their bills were a muddy mess from exploring the ground and looking for food. I have never seen so many together in one place since.

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