22 October 2020
When you see a bird eating white berries from a hairy vine you might not realize it’s eating poison ivy. Birds are blissfully immune to the urushiol in poison ivy sap that gives us humans a nasty rash.
By late October poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) doesn’t look like the plant we’ve been avoiding all summer. The leaves are red or missing, the vine is exposed, and bunches of white berries hang from the branches. It’s easy for migrating yellow-rumped warblers (Setophaga coronata) to find the food they’re so fond of.
Resident birds such as downy and pileated woodpeckers munch on the berries all winter.
It makes me feel itchy to think of it!
p.s. Deer eat poison ivy, too.
(photos by Cris Hamilton and from Flickr via Creative Commons licensing by Dendrioca cerulea and Jen Goellnitz; click on the captions to see the originals in Flickr)