BACKYARD BIRDING IN MERIDA, YUCATAN AND BEYOND – PEEL ME A GRAPE…: GREAT KISKADEE

Great Kiskadee continues to eat fruit after peeling each one

Cherie Pittillo, “nature inspired”, zoologist, wildlife photographer, and author, explores nature everywhere she goes. She’s identified 55 bird species in her Merida, Yucatan backyard view. Her column, published on the 7th and 21st of each month features anecdotes about birding in Merida, Yucatan and beyond. Contact: all4birdies@gmail.com  All rights reserved, ©Cherie Pittillo

 

Whenever I’m immersed in nature, I usually don’t think about music unless Mother Nature has shared her earth sounds with me. However, I stopped to photograph a virtual *smorgasbord of birds or “smorgasbirds” that fed on the peanut-sized fruit of the “tourist tree” (chaka/chakah Spanish). I didn’t expect to think of a song. No, not by Chaka Khan, but by Diane Krall.

 

“Peel Me a Grape” came to mind.

 

Nicknamed the “tourist tree” due to its peeling bark like sunburned visitors in the Yucatan, the tree served what appeared to be a bevy of berries at this leafy, fruit salad bar.

 

It’s not the peeling tree bark that made me think of the song; it was how the birds ate the fruit.

 

For example, this Great Kiskadee picked the round fruit and managed to separate the outer skin from the fleshy fruit. It peeled off the peel.

Great Kiskadee begins to peel off peeling of chaka fruit
Great Kiskadee begins to peel off peeling of chaka fruit

Quickly, it sheared off a section of the outer protective coat which fell in front of it. By the way, I never realized the tiny sharp tip of the upper beak existed. Look closely.

Peeling drops from Great Kiskadee's effort to remove outer fruit skin
Peeling drops from Great Kiskadee’s effort to remove outer fruit skin

 

Then it opened its beak and tilted its head to change the position of the fruit.

Head toss of the Great Kiskadee changes fruit position in mouth
Head toss of the Great Kiskadee changes fruit position in mouth
Great Kiskadee still a peeling
Great Kiskadee still a peeling

 

And with some apparent tongue action, it readied to eat the skinless fruit.

Great Kiskadee tongue aids in turning the fruit
Great Kiskadee tongue aids in turning the fruit
Great Kiskadee tongue action with fruit
Great Kiskadee tongue action with fruit

It repeated this sequence several times.

Great Kiskadee continues to eat fruit after peeling each one
Great Kiskadee continues to eat fruit after peeling each one

Success came in the form of triangular juicy fruits that fit within a circular skin!

Great Kiskadee removes triangular juiciness from circular fruit
Great Kiskadee removes triangular juiciness from circular fruit

By the way, another local name for this tree is gumbo limbo. It does sound musical to me.

Go explore nature and you will find it “appealing”.

“Smorgasbird” species in this small tourist tree: 3 Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, 2 Tropical Mockingbirds, 1 Clay-colored Thrush, 3 Great Kiskadees, 2 Couch’s Kingbirds, 3 Social Flycatchers, 2 Hooded Orioles, 4 Orchard Orioles, 1 Altamira Oriole.  

                                                                                                                   Oh, a frisky, male White-winged Dove landed in the tree not to eat fruit, but it tried to hook up with a female to give up her forbidden fruit.







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