the bird magnet

Each year it seems that the Tennessee Warblers arrive in the backyard with the flowering of the Ohio Buckeye.  Of course, they may well get here earlier than that, but they show up in my yard, just as the flowers begin to open.

The tree also leafs out about the same time it flowers, making bird photography challenging.

The tree also leafs out about the same time it flowers, making bird photography challenging.

Tennessee Warblers seem to really enjoy a good feast of nectar which these flowers provide, and at times there are 10-12 birds flitting all over the tree.  However, it isn’t just these little guys that enjoy the nectar — the tree is a veritable magnet for nectar as well as insect lovers.

American Redstart female

Just this morning there were American Redstarts (female pictured here), Nashville Warblers, Chestnut-sided Warblers, and Baltimore Orioles visiting the Buckeye flowers.

A Nashville Warbler seems interested in the flower nectar as well.

Nashville Warblers have a distinctive white eyering and chestnut cap (not seen here). I’m not sure if they were after the insects or the nectar.

But it’s the Tennessee Warblers that really spend a lot of time there, and perform a vital service for the tree — pollination of the flowers.

Notice how the anthers of the flower extend outside the flower tube.  When the bird inserts its bill deep into the base of the flower, his head and chin get dusted with pollen which will be carried to other flowers elsewhere on the tree.

The anthers of the Buckeye flowers extend well outside the flower tube. When the bird inserts its bill deep into the base of the flower, his forehead and chin get dusted with pollen which will be carried to other flowers elsewhere on the tree.

I almost thought this was a new species I hadn't seen before -- but then realized it wasn't a rosy-faced warbler but a Tennessee Warbler with a lot of buckeye pollen on its face.

I almost thought this was a new species I hadn’t seen before — but then realized it wasn’t some new rosy-faced warbler type but a Tennessee Warbler with a lot of buckeye pollen on its face.  

So it’s these birds that I have to thank for the hundreds of big meaty buckeye nuts that fall to the ground or are harvested by the squirrels and buried all over my backyard. The nuts seem like they would be a great food resource for the deer, squirrels, turkeys, etc. over the winter, but unfortunately, they are so full of tannic acids that they are bitter and poisonous to livestock and humans.  Native Americans blanched the nuts, leaching the tannic acid out of them for tanning their leather.

10 thoughts on “the bird magnet

    • Reading up on Ohio Buckeye, I found that it is supposedly pollinated by bees (as you would expect) and hummingbirds. But no one mentioned warblers, and there should be plenty of them in this tree’s range. Interestingly, I have yet to see a hummingbird on these flowers.

    • I was disappointed at first because I thought I had seen a Parula Warbler, but glad I could figure out what was giving the warbler its rosy face.

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