Richard and Diane Van Vleck Personal Pages
The Home Habitat

The Ugly Young Maple

The ugly young maple
kingbird in the ugly young maple
Female kestrel with vole
Female Northern flicker on ugly young maple
Male cowbird in ugly young maple

The ugly young maple is a silver maple behind the barn that is gradually dying. Each year more of its branches are bare, providing a high perch for many different species of birds.  The second pair of kestrels nest in a box on the barn wall directly in front of the maple and frequently perch in the tree to pass a prey item or otherwise communicate. I witnessed purple martin young fledge simultaneously from several different gourds this spring and after spending a moment on the gourd rack, all fly directly to the ugly young maple, even though it isn't in the direct line of sight from their gourds. Adults were likely calling them from the tree or one may have led them around the wagon shed which blocked their view. Fledglings of other species also seemed to prefer this tree for their first destination, including cedar waxwings which nest in a tree only 20 meters away. While the purple martin fledglings only used the tree on fledge day, the barn swallow young spent a great deal of time there, waiting to be fed. A pair of flickers also use the tree near their nest box when the kestrels aren't around.

While a half dead tree isn't most people's idea of a natural attraction, (and I agree), my interest in this tree is it's apparent usefulness for many birds. There are times when birds don't want to be hidden in the heavy foliage of living trees. The kingbird uses the highest branch to proclaim his ownership of territory. The brown thrasher sings relentlessly in early spring to attract a mate, and the martins and barn swallows often fledge to this tree.

Unlike the snag, which usually has a rather short life, these small dead branches can linger for several years, And, snags usually don't retain small branches suitable for perching songbirds. And, most artificial perches are much too low for singing.  Snags, garden perches and upper dead branches all serve an important purpose.

Cedar waxwing in ugly young maple
fledgling purple martins in ugly young maple
Bluebird in ugly young maple
Mourning dove in ugly young maple


Cedar waxwings in ugly young maple
Barn swallow fledglings in ugly young maple
American kestrel pair in ugly young maple

2010 - 2014 Northern flicker nestings
2014 house wren gourd use
2014 - A dramatic loss of many types of insects
barn swallow artificial nest cups
2014 barn owl nesting - prey study
A new barn swallow shelter for 2013
2010 barn owl nesting
2010 Update
Entire site index (outdated)
Starling traps
Using blinds in the home habitat
Providing perches for birds
Providing snags for wildlife
The ugly young maple
2001 - 2013 nest cams
Use of tomato cages as hunting perches by insectivorous song birds
Vultures, beetles and the resurrection of life

Species of interest in our yard - photos and articles
barn owl American kestrel purple martin barn swallow Eastern bluebird
tufted titmouse Eastern phoebe yellow shafted flicker tree swallow chimney swift
house wren big brown bat Carolina wren brown thrasher catbird
Eastern wood-pewee
cedar waxwing Northern mockingbird
Blue-gray gnatcatcher
turkey vulture
Yellow warbler Acadian flycatcher

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