Mistletoe_birds

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druID

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Feb 4, 2007, 7:15:17 PM2/4/07
to Mistletoe Matters
Hi Members

Please, which kinds of birds do help the Mistletoe to get further on
other trees?

Thanks

Jonathan Briggs

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Feb 5, 2007, 3:28:06 AM2/5/07
to Mistletoe Matters
In the UK the main vector is the Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorous) -
named because of its fondness for mistletoe berries. Some studies
have suggested it is one of the few birds that 'understand' that the
white berries of msitletoe are actually edible - all other native
plants in northern Europe have brightly coloured berries (red, purple,
orange etc).

As well as Mistle Thrush a few other thrush family members
(Fieldfares, Redwings, Blackbirds etc) also take mistletoe. The
thrushes do not, contrary to popular belief, wipe the seeds from the
berries from their beaks - they usually swallow the berries whole,
excreting the intact seed, still surrounded by sticky berry flesh
later. It they are sitting on a tree branch at that moment the
excreted seeds will stick to the branch - and eventually germinate.

In mainland European Blackcaps are a major factor too. They take
mistletoe seeds, and they are fussier, wiping the seed from their
beaks onto a branch and only swallowing the berry flesh. So they are
'more efficient' at planting the seeds - each one gets placed on a
branch - but may be less efficient at spreading it from tree to tree,
as they tend tyo place it on the nearest branch. Blackcaps do not
overwinter in the UK in large numbers - so are not a big factor here -
but their wintering patterns are changing and there are now more of
them.

Elsewhere in the world there are many other mistletoe species - and
many other birds spreading it.

Jonathan

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