Desert Hackberry

by Dan Weisz

Web presentation by Douglas at Hummingbird Market

Desert Hackberry is a common plant in the Catalina Foothills.  If planted in your yard it needs no watering once established, provides nice “green”, offered great shelter for birds and is a great food source every fall.  One of the Desert Hackberry plants behind my house is loaded with fruit now and I’ve been watching birds move in and out this week, partaking in the juicy berries.  The timing and quantity of fruit ripening is highly dependent on rainfall.  Fruits can ripen any time between July and December.  The fruits are very bright and sweet, with one hard seed in the middle.  

Gila Woodpeckers are enjoying the fruit.  (Gila Woodpeckers eat insects, fruit, seeds, occasional birds’ eggs, and lizards).  Each time this bird would grab a fruit, it would then fly off to another location to eat it.  He was eating snacks “to-go”.

Northern Mockingbirds also enjoyed the berries.  Although I wasn’t able to get a photo of this particular bird with the fruit in his mouth, he had just swallowed a fruit whole and you can see the lump in his throat and a satisfied look in his eyes!  With that long narrow bill, mockingbirds seem to be built to eat insects.  They do eat mainly insects in the summer but switch to eating mostly fruit in the fall and winter.

Gulp!!  And the fruit continues its travel down the mockingbird’s throat!

I saw many House finches going in and out of the plant.  With that beak, house finches would seem to favor diets of seeds, but they do eat all parts of plants including fruit.  This is a “before” photo so you can see the beak size/shape.

And I finally caught a house finch in the act.  The fruit was probably too large to be swallowed whole and the finch seemed to be biting through chunks of the fruits.

A female Pyrrhuloxia enjoyed the fruit as well.  At first, it seemed like she was having trouble getting that entire berry in her mouth.

But she definitely managed just a few moments later, swallowing the entire berry whole.

Here is another Mockingbird with a berry.  This bird seems to have a few feathers sticking up above its eye.

And down the hatch it goes.

For more info on Desert Hackberry plants, here are a few references.

Listed here as one of Arizona Audubon’s Top Ten Bird Plants: