En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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

Small Yard Tree for Washington DC
July 20, 2012 - What do you suggest for a tree or shrub in my front yard? The yard is small; 9 ft x 12 ft. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Watering Native Trees in Georgetown, TX
July 19, 2012 - I installed a native/adapted plantscape in early March including several small trees. They were planted in the rocky soil west of I-35 in Georgetown with plenty of added compost and mulch. Other than ...
view the full question and answer

Problems with Shumard Oaks and Crepe Myrtle in Cooke Co. TX
September 07, 2013 - I have a Shumard Oak Tree that has been in the ground approx. ten years. It has done great, even passing up some of my older Shumards. In August it began to lose its leaves at an alarming rate. They a...
view the full question and answer

Leaves wrinkling on Tecoma stans from San Antonio TX
August 16, 2013 - My two year old esperanza (planted in the ground) froze back last winter, came back from the roots & has been doing well all summer. Recently one branch has leaves that are nice & green but very wrin...
view the full question and answer

Time to transplant an Eastern Redbud in Pearland, TX
November 17, 2010 - When is the best time in the fall to transplant an Eastern Redbud tree in Pearland, TX? We have one approximately 6 feet tall in the back yard and want to move it to the front ASAP.
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center