Growing up to 100 feet tall and three feet wide, Sweetgum trees thrive along streams and lakes. After the tree grows for about 15 to 20 years, it begins to flower. The flowers eventually turn into prickly round balls full of seeds. While some gardeners find the sticky balls create a mess to clean up in the fall, birds love this natural food source. If you want to attract birds to your yard, this tree makes a great addition to any wildlife-friendly backyard.
A purple finch looks like a sparrow with pale red feathers on its head, chest and back. These birds use their chunky beaks to break open sweetgum balls to access the seeds inside. Listen for the purple finch’s song–a deep, rich warbling sound–then look in your sweetgum tree for the singer.
These cute little birds, sporting black caps and bibs with white cheeks, travel in small flocks. Curious birds, chickadees often come close to people, allowing good looks at their markings. Since chickadees spend much of their time hiding seeds to eat later, you may see them taking seeds from your sweetgum tree and hiding them in the bark of other nearby trees.
Several species of towhees may be seen in the wild, including Eastern, Spotted, California and Abert’s towhees. Beginning birders often confuse towhees with robins thanks to their orange chest. To distinguish towhees from robins, look for the towhee’s red eye and the white bars on its wings. While towhees often flick leaves and ground debris to capture insects underneath, they also use their bills to crack seeds. You’ll likely find them eating seeds of sweetgum balls that fall to the ground.
The incredibly loud song coming out of this tiny bird often amazes birders. Sensitive to cold weather, this wren migrates south in colder winters, so it can be seen in warmer climates in the summer, and down south in colder seasons. This bird mostly eats insects and spiders. It also probes cracks in tree bark to find and eat sweetgum seeds other birds hid. Watch for this wren as it also flicks leaves on the ground to find insects and loose sweetgum seeds.
Common in the western United States and Canada in the summer, juncos can be found almost everywhere in the winter. These brown and white birds with dark brown or black heads flit about on the ground, primarily eating seeds and a few insects. Look for juncos under your sweetgum trees where they find seeds other birds dropped or that fell off the balls on the tree.
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