En Español

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

Problems with non-native citrus trees from Mesa AZ
January 13, 2014 - We have one valencia orange tree and one naval orange tree in our Mesa, AZ yard. Just noticed some oranges on both trees have a 1/4 inch diameter hole through the skin and the orange fruit and skin a...
view the full question and answer

Pruning Trees in Austin, TX
April 05, 2013 - I have lots of green growth sprouting on the trunks of mature trees. Should I trim them off?
view the full question and answer

Evergreen tree to provide block for treehouse in Central Texas
April 02, 2010 - I live close to Austin TX and need an evergreen tree to block neighbor's newly constructed, metal roof tree house. It looms over our garden and yard - can you suggest a nice evergreen tree for hot m...
view the full question and answer

Problem with magnolias and yaupon in Prosper TX
May 13, 2012 - Problem with Little Gem magnolia - 3 little gems planted next to a fence, in Prosper, TX. Planted 3 years ago, 2009, one of the trees is now withering. The other 2 are doing fine, the one has leaves...
view the full question and answer

Bacterial wetwood disease in ash tree
November 11, 2004 - I have an Ash tree in my front yard. It's about 25 - 30 years old. About 2 months ago, it began to ooze sap from a point where a limb had been pruned, I'd say, about 15 - 20 years ago. So this cut ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center