Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - March 27, 2007

From: Fort Worth, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Hackberry stripped by Cedar Waxwings or American Goldfinches
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in Fort Worth. My one and only tree in the backyard is a 23 year old hackberry. While not infested with gall or weevils, we have been invaded this past few weeks by hordes of small, chubby, yellow-breasted birds (smaller than our pesky grackles and starlings) who have stripped every bud, seed and feathery flowering part (sorry I don't remember my botanical terms) leaving it totally bare, save the rare and puny few leaves that somehow escaped detection in their formative stage. These little visitors were here probably two weeks systematically stripping the tree and now since there's no more supply have most likely moved on. My questions are (1) Will they return when the second set of buds appear? (2) Would you happen to know what kind of birds these are, as they've never visited our tree in the 23 years we've had it? (3) If these little darlings return, is there some means of deterring them? I know it's just a hackberry, but it's MY hackberry......help, please !!

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants checked with a "birding" friend who suggested two possibilites for your marauding birds: Cedar Waxwings and American Goldfinches. Both forage in flocks and would be about the size you describe. David Sibley, in The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior, says "In spring, waxwings feed on remnant fruit crops, as well as buds, sap drips, and flowers of apple, cherry, aspen, cottonwood, maple, and oak trees." He reports that the "...finches consume seeds and buds still attached to trees and bushes." They feed in flocks and are "highly gregarious in all seasons." My "birding" friend has seen them strip budding elm trees. Why either of these birds would focus on Celtis laevigata var. reticulata (netleaf hackberry) rather than one of the other trees named above probably has to do with environmental factors that caused the hackberry to be the one tree to have abundant delicious buds and flowers ready to eat before the other trees.

Will they return? Perhaps, but probably not because some other tree will likely be ready with tasty buds and flowers by then.

Should they return, however, you can see a list of Humane Bird Deterrents from the San Francisco SPCA.

 

More Trees Questions

Summer flowering small trees for NY
April 20, 2011 - Request recommendations about trees for terrace. Would like flowers or color in summer; not spring. (Some of my trees are twenty five feet high.) Full sun, some wind, large containers. Please recomme...
view the full question and answer

Non-native, and/or invasive bermudagrass, St. Augustine and Pistache from Houston
September 24, 2012 - Our St. Augustine lawn died suddenly this summer from either chinch bugs or grub worms (or both?), and a multitude of weeds and native Bermuda have taken over the area. Now that the weather has cooled...
view the full question and answer

Further explanation of retaining walls and trees from Washington MO
March 11, 2013 - I had a question previously about putting retaining walls across the root system of a 40' tall bald cypress tree(not like spokes on a wheel, but concentric to tree trunk). How wide can the walls be? ...
view the full question and answer

Need a tree to grow in the middle of a retention pond in Pennsylvania
June 03, 2010 - I have a shallow retention pond in my yard in South Eastern Pennsylvania. The pond is used for rainwater runoff and also for natural springs that are located below the surface. If I plant a tree in th...
view the full question and answer

Persimmon trunk grown around fence rail in Austin
November 08, 2012 - I have a Texas Persimmon in my backyard that is about 12-15 feet tall. It's been growing next to a chain-link fence and over the years, the top rail of the fence has cut into the bark on the trunk. A...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.