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Posts Tagged ‘Sweetgum’

I watched in utter fascination on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as this Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) worked to extract seeds from the spiky seedpods of a sweetgum tree. The little bird would hang upside down with all of its weight on the stem of the seedpod and poke about with its bill inside the seedpod. Once it had found a seed, the chickadee would yank back its head to extract the seed.

Most of the time the bird would then fly to a nearby branch to consume the seed and then resume the process. Occasionally, though, the momentum generated in extracting the seed caused the chickadee to fall away and momentarily lose its balance and I was lucky enough to capture one such moment in the first image below.

The other two images give you an idea of some of the acrobatic positions used by the chickadee in its foraging. In the final photo, I believe the chickadee was using its extended wings to help stabilize itself as it sought to snag another seed.

It is good to know that there are potential food sources available during the winter for these little birds, but sure looks like the chickadee has to work really hard to gain access to those tiny seeds inside of those spiky gumball.

Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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This Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) was busily extracting seeds from the spiky sweetgum seed balls when I spotted it high in a tree on Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The chickadee would dangle upside down from the branch to snag a seed with its bill and bring the seed back onto the branch to eat it.

In this image, the chickadee appeared to be eying its next target—the seed ball in the lower left of the shot.

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Seeds from Sweetgum tree seedpods provided much-needed nourishment for some of the small birds in my area, like this Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) that I spotted on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The chickadee’s acrobatic position reminds me a little of that of a hovering hummingbird. Appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, the chickadee is not levitating—its legs are merely hidden behind its body.

It is pretty amazing that the chickadee can hang with its full body weight from the seed pod and extract seeds without causing the pod to fall from the tree. The delicate touch required reminds me of playing the classic game Operation when I was a child. The game requires you to remove various body parts from a patient using a pair of electric tweezers that buzz if you touch the edges of the cavity opening. (Check out this Wikipedia article if you are not familiar with the Operation game, which amazingly is still in production.)

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This is the first year that I have really noticed how many different birds work to extract the seeds from the spiky seedpods of the sweetgum tree. In the past month I have done postings featuring chickadees and goldfinches. Today I am spotlighting a beautiful House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) that I spotted on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The brilliant red color on the finch’s head and shoulders seems so perfect for the season as many of us prepare to celebrate Christmas. I initially thought that the bird’s large conical beak was buried in the the seed ball, but was happy to see that it is visible. The finch uses that powerful beak to crack open all kinds of seeds as it engages in nature’s own nutcracker suite.

Merry Christmas to those celebrating Christmas and happy holidays and best wishes to all in this joyous season. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

House Finch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was windy yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but that did not deter some American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) from foraging for seeds in the spiky seedpods still hanging from the leafless Sweetgum Trees (Liquidambar styraciflua). The goldfinches were amazing daring and acrobatic in their efforts high in the trees to extract the seeds.

It is a testament to the strength of the stems of the seedpods and the light weight of the goldfinches that the birds were able to place all of their weight on hanging seedpods and poke into their perches with their pointed beaks, as you can see in the first image. The final image shows that the finches knew that there were seeds throughout the seedpods and were willing to turn upside down to reach some additional seeds.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) was working hard this past Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to get to the seeds inside the spiky pods of a sweetgum tree. I was amazed that the stem of the seedpods was able to support the weight of the little bird, particularly because it had to peck away vigorously to get to the seeds. Eventually the chickadee’s persistence would pay off and it would sit on a branch and really seemed to enjoy the seeds.

It makes me wonder what the seeds taste like.

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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