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Posts Tagged ‘Sweetgum’

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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