Forbidden fruit*

In Florida I saw this pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus) on the top of a dead palm tree.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus

We all know that woodpeckers probe rotting wood to retrieve insects, ants, and juicy larvae, so dead and dying trees are where you expect to see them.

But this one had other ideas:


As you can see, they are in fact quite catholic in their tastes, and often eat seeds and fruits, not just when kindly supplied for them by human bird-feeders.  This one is a male, because the red covers his whole head; females have red napes only. And you can just glimpse the red on his belly that gets him his name.

All over the world, fruiting trees are irresistible to wildlife. This mousebird in Ethiopia is gorging on figs:

Speckled Mousebird

And this bulbul can barely swallow the large yellow berries he has found:

Common Bulbul?

The size of his belly suggests that this Kenyan Blue Monkey has already had more than enough:

Blue monkey, Cercopithecus mitis

* These greedy, wary, faintly illicit feastings reminded me of Emily Dickinson’s poem:

Forbidden fruit a flavor has

That lawful orchards mocks;

How luscious lies the pea within

The pod that Duty locks!


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