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Elm Seeds Important Early Source of Food For Wildlife

elm seeds 0U1A0175Tips of American Elm (Ulmus Americana) branches dropping on the ground alerted me to the fact that something was going on in the crown of the elm tree above me. Sure enough, a Gray Squirrel was busy dropping branch tips after harvesting the elm seeds on them. Because their seeds develop long before most seeds are available, elm seeds are sought after by numerous song birds, game birds and squirrels. This was verified by the presence of the Gray Squirrel, as well as a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and an Indigo Bunting (see photo), both of which took intermittent breaks to sing, but spent most of their time consuming elm seeds.

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11 responses

  1. janetpesaturo

    This is interesting to me because in late winter I found what I was pretty sure was sign of wild turkeys eating the swelling flower buds of American elm. There were turkey tracks all around nipped elm twigs with flower buds eaten off. The cut end of the twigs were torn rather than cleanly cut, so it clearly wasn’t a rodent nipping them. Wish I could upload a photo of the sign here to share. I thought it was probably more of an emergency food source for turkeys that they were using this year due to the poor acorn crop last fall in my area.

    June 7, 2019 at 8:34 am

    • Fascinating. I would have guessed deer, but tracks don’t lie!

      June 7, 2019 at 8:27 pm

  2. David Fedor-Cunningham

    I have also seen purple finch feeding on the dormant flower buds during the winter. It’s great that so much work is being done to develop disease resistant elm trees for their beauty in the landscape as well as an important source of food for wildlife.

    June 7, 2019 at 8:42 am

  3. Alice Pratt

    Must be yummy to eat fresh seeds, lots of nutrients.

    June 7, 2019 at 8:53 am

  4. Betsy stewart

    Lucky you to HAVE an elm tree

    June 7, 2019 at 10:20 am

  5. Has anyone else noticed a scarcity of gray squirrels? Where I live in the town of Windsor, the usual number of squirrels and one in particular with only a tail stubb whom we call, « Stubby », and have seen for several years—that crew doesn’t seem to be around at all! I wonder if owls get them up in their leaf nests (drays?), when the ground is frozen and hard hunting for owls?

    June 7, 2019 at 11:53 am

    • janetpesaturo

      In my area (Bolton, MA) many of the rodent populations seem to be way down: gray, red and flying squirrels; chipmunks; and deermice. I’m assuming it’s due to low winter survival as a result of the poor acorn crop last fall. Even sugar maple seed crop was poor.

      June 7, 2019 at 5:05 pm

  6. I haven’t here in central Vermont, but not sure about any other spots. Poor nut/seed crop last fall may explain this phenomenon where you are!

    June 7, 2019 at 8:22 pm

  7. Thanks for your answers, Janet and Mary. Some like me miss these squirrels as really part of the community, even though they can seem potentially worrisome when so many are here. I know there will be more, but THOSE ONES were special!

    June 7, 2019 at 11:31 pm

  8. Al Stoops

    I have been hoping, for the past few years, to learn how to distinguish American from slippery elm. Both grow in this area. Do you have any tips?

    June 8, 2019 at 10:25 pm

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