Apricot Wars

My ripening apricots

The baking sun has given the apricots their orange bloom and visions of sticky jam and creamy smoothies keep the boys and I on high alert for the softening signs of ripeness.

We’re not the only ones.

The mousebirds are gathering in ever increasing numbers, perched in that distinctive vertically suspended way, with their widely splayed feet held apart at chest level (see pic below). We want our jam and they want their fruit straight up and fresh from the tree.

Mousebirds are an ancient group of small arboreal birds in Africa. They are so unique in morphological peculiarities that they were proposed as a separate order of birds as long ago as 1872. They are the only order restricted to sub-Saharan Africa.

That makes mousebirds kind of special, having an entire order to themselves and being totally unrelated to anything else alive today. They are as different from other birds as primates are from bats or crocodiles from tortoises.

The mousebirds take their name from their appearance and habits – creeping through leaves and undergrowth with short rounded bodies and long tails.They feed mainly on fruit, buds and leaves and are frequently seen sunning themselves – using the hot sun to warm their abdomens, which helps their digestive system break down the large amounts of cellulose they ingest (steal).

I might not have my own order or a hair style from the early 80s, but it is my tree – and those damn rodent birds are just going to have to share.

Feet splayed and cool hairstyle on view

Mousebird pic and info from Bird File, John Isom, 2007 Edition 3, and Bird Families of the World.


2 Responses to “Apricot Wars”

  1. 1 shoreacres November 28, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    That picture of the mousebird is rich – it looks like someone after a too-large Thanksgiving dinner.

    I read that breeding pairs have juvenile “helpers” – bird babysitters, if you will. That’s pretty cool, but it doesn’t excuse apricot thievery.

    We had cherry trees while I was growing up, and it was a constant fight against the robins. I hope you have better luck than we did – I must say those apricots look pretty luscious!

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