The attractive birch has a story to tell of how, it and wild birds, particularly Woodpeckers helped humans to discover a valuable food source.
This is a direct quote from the book Ojibway Heritage by Basil Johnston pages 39-40. (Purchase this book below.)
Foods were discovered by observation and deduction, some quite by accident.
For example: That the fluids of trees were nutritious was discovered, according to tradition, in the following manner.
The birch tree suffered enormously from the itch, he squirmed; he writhed in discomfort. Though he had numerous limbs, arms, and fingers, he could not scratch.
There was nothing the birch tree could do to relieve his sufferings.
In his agony, the poor birch called out to the squirrels and porcupines and beavers to pick out the ticks, grubs, and beetles that were tormenting him. But the squirrels and porcupines and beavers were too busy to offer any help. The best they could do was to give their sympathy without limit.
The Birch Tree is Helped
Next, the birch called out to the birds. They too felt sorry for the birch, but they could do nothing. Only the
woodpeckers came to help. Coming to the aid of the poor tree the downy woodpecker, his cousin, the red-headed woodpecker, the flicker, and the chickadee all picked every pest from beneath the bark of the birch. The birch tree ceased itching.
Many years later the woodpeckers were in distress. Not knowing what to do or from whom they could find help, they, at last, came to the birch and related a sad story. In the long rainless spell, the woodpeckers were dying from thirst. The woodpeckers were unable to drink from pools and lakes and streams, like other birds
“Could,” they asked, “you do something?”The birch remembering the help that he had received from the woodpeckers said to them, “Go to my trunk and drill two holes near each other and they will presently fill up with my sap.”
The desperate woodpeckers flew down and drummed away at the trunk of the tree until they had drilled two tiny holes.
Almost immediately the holes began to fill up and yield a rich flow of sap. Thirstily, the woodpeckers drank and
they have been drinking from trees since that time.
From the woodpeckers, the Anishnabeg learned that trees yield sap and that trees could be tapped.
Birch tree sap is vinegary tasting. It was not long after the birch tree discovery that maple trees were tried and tapped but with a much sweeter resulting syrup as we are all familiar with today.
A variety of birds will use the holes that Woodpeckers make in trees to drink syrup from. Not unlike our own syrup feeders we provide for Hummingbirds. Wild birds make use of many natural sources of bird food which of course makes up most of their diet.
Backyard Bird Stories
- Part l: Life In A Goldfinch Nest This is a story in video of an adventure into the beginning of life for four Goldfinch youths.
Part ll: Full Fledge: Goldfinches Fledge day is the next video along the path of the journey for the young Goldfinch chicks.
- Best Bat Facts They look the part of an evil villain, but it is only the adaptations of survival that have resulted in their unique look. They live in caves and other equally dark places and they make eerily spooky sounds. But let’s stick to the facts about bats.
- Canada Jay Meet this energetic, gregarious Jay that will quickly become one of your favorite birds. You may even be spurred on to visit an area where you can share lunch with this fun bird.
- Great Blue Heron Facts One of the biggest and best fishermen in the bird world. A beautiful bird, a denizen of the shore.
- Bird Types Discover the A-Z about our common, unusual, and rare birds that visit our backyard bird feeding stations through facts, photos, fun quizzes, and stories that reveal the wonder of our delightful backyard friends.