Monday, May 20, 2013

Avian Sweet Tooth -- Fun With Plums‏ By: Lowell Washburn

To me, it's always amazing how quickly birds can discover and exploit new food sources.  Put out a new hummingbird or oriole feeder, for example, and the species you hope to attract will often show up within hours -- sometimes within minutes.  Birds do the same thing, of course, with natural foods -- always exploring, always on the lookout for the newest bird food buffets.  Last week, the wild plums came into full bloom all across Northern Iowa; their brilliant white flowers appearing like snow drifts against the greening backdrops of spring.  There are two nice plum thickets near a woodland where I've been trying to photograph wild turkeys and I couldn't help but notice the birdlife the plum flowers were attracting.  Like the birds themselves, I decided to capitalize on the opportunity.  Although an overwhelming majority of the birds visiting the plums were goldfinches, I soon discovered that a good number of other species were also arriving for their sugar high -- with the list including orioles, warblers, and at least one siskin.  Birds utilized the plum flowers in different ways.  Goldfinches appeared to be mainly interested in eating the pollen.  Others, such as Tennessee warblers, ruby throated hummingbirds, and orioles simply guzzled the nectar.  While visiting birdlife are receiving their rewards now; I'm planning on returning for my sugar load in late summer when this year's crop of wild plums turn sweet and purple.


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