Thank a TreeBy Jennifer Bové
Trees like this bur oak help wildlife all through the year. Check out the scenes on these pages to see how helpful one tree can be.
1. Look closely at the dark bundle in the branches—it’s a porcupine! In the winter, porcupines climb the tree to eat twigs and bark on high branches.
2. A barn owl perches quietly on a limb, hunting for a tasty mouse or vole below.
3. The tan jumping spider hibernates in the tree’s bark. It creates a silky “sleeping bag” in a deep groove of bark and snuggles inside until spring.
4. You might spy a white-breasted nuthatch creeping along branches, upside down. It pokes its bill into the bark to pry out insects to eat.
5. White-tailed deer hang around the tree in early winter. Why? They’re eating acorns that recently dropped from its branches. Acorns give deer energy to help them stay warm. Plus, deer seem to think they’re delicious!
6. In the spring, fox squirrel parents build a nest of clumped leaves and twigs where they will raise their babies. This type of squirrel nest is called a drey (DRAY).
7. A female robin builds her nest on a large limb, using dry grass, mud, and small twigs.
8. In a hole in the tree’s trunk, a mother raccoon will raise her babies, called kits. The kits will practice climbing among the tree branches when they are about six weeks old.
9. A fox in the tree—can it be? Yes! The gray fox climbs trees to hunt for squirrels, birds, bird eggs, insects, and fruit.
10. The downy woodpecker, North America’s smallest woodpecker, is a common sight in the oak tree. It hops along the trunk and branches, pecking insects from the bark.
11. A rough green snake slithers silently through the leafy branches. It is hunting for an insect or treefrog to eat.
12. This gray treefrog blends in with the bark, helping it hide from predators—including the rough green snake! (11)
13. Gall wasps lay their eggs on leaves or twigs, creating bumps called galls. Galls shelter the developing insects without harming the tree.
14. A red-tailed hawk perches on the top branches of the oak to hunt. It watches for rabbits in the grass and for squirrels in the branches below.
15. This blue jay is busily collecting acorns. It will bury hundreds of acorns in the ground and snack on them during the winter.
16. Black bears are skilled climbers, and they love acorns. This bear is feasting on acorns in the tree to fatten up for winter hibernation.
17. Eastern gray squirrels bury acorns just as blue jays do. They also stuff leaves into trunk holes to make cozy winter dens.
18. In chilly weather, flamed tigersnails find shelter under a heavy layer of fallen leaves.