Feathered Spermophilus

From researching the Ground Squirrel, I learned that part of its scientific name, ‘spermophilus,’ means seed lover. But the little mammal is not the only seed lover, not by a long shot. This House Finch, photographed in the Berkeley Meadow, is a feathered spermophilus, taking advantage of the fence to grab the seeds of tall grasses. Note that the bird doesn’t have a pair of little paws to hold the seed head while it sheds the hull and extracts the seed core. It has to do all of that with its beak and its tongue. That seems to be no problem, as it rapidly moves from one to the next.

This is a time of plenty for the seed lovers, as numerous species of grasses are finished flowering and have set seed, or will do so shortly. The birds and squirrels can take their pick. The only problem is in the mowed portions of the park. If mowing happened before the plants set seed, the mowed areas are more or less food deserts for the birds. Mowed areas also offer poor habitat for insects, a vital protein source for many hatchlings. Mowing also removes tall wildflowers like the golden yellow mustard and the white-pink-purple flowered radish that add visual appeal to the park landscape.

House Finch male (Haemorhous mexicanus)

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