What species has a diet that includes small wasps, may be helping to spread an invasive species, and can predict hurricane season intensity?
Living The Dream
If you live in North or South America, particularly in the Northern United States, chances are you’ve seen a veery before! This creature is a member of the thrush family and gets its name from the “Veer! Veer! Veer!” song that it sings. The veery’s crown, back, and wings are a light brown with red dusted in, and its underside is a fluffy white with reddish-brown specks on the chest. Quite differently, the veery’s eggs are a teal color!
The veery loves woodlands, and it takes up residence in damp, deciduous forests in North America for much of the year before migrating to tropical forests in Central and South America for the winter. (Snowbirds indeed!)
Part of the reason why veeries love woodlands may lie in their diet. The veery eats a hearty mix of small insects and berries, which it acquires through foraging. It even eats centipedes and small wasps! Not one to leave a stone underturned, the veery peruses the understory of the forest, lifting twigs and leaves with its beak, in search of a tasty and nutritious meal.
The veery loves woodland habitats with a healthy dose of moisture, and likes to take up residence near trees adjacent to water bodies, like beaver ponds. Here at Bio4Climate, we’re also huge fans of beavers for their ability to rehydrate landscapes!
A Strong Intuition
One of the most exciting traits unique to the veery is that it can anticipate hurricane season intensity months before the season arrives. How incredible is that?!
This discovery was made by Christopher M. Heckscher, a professor at Delaware State University. After observing the breeding habits of the veery for two decades and examining data about corresponding hurricane seasons, he learned that the veery changes its nesting behavior (such as how long it nests for, and how many eggs it lays) based on the impending hurricane season intensity. If a hurricane season is going to be stronger, the veery will nest for a shorter period of time and begin migration sooner. It is likely that leaving sooner gives the veery a better chance of arriving at their winter site safely.
If you’re wondering how exactly veeries can detect hurricane season intensity, well, you’re not alone! This is still a mystery to humans, and more research needs to be done to find out the veery’s strategy.
Every Individual Makes A Difference
The veery’s story is an excellent example of how every species in an ecosystem creates an impact. Whether human, animal, or plant, we all create lasting effects on the world around us, both good and bad!
Recently, the veery was included in a research study among several other avian species in North America that may be transporting an invasive insect called the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. The Hemlock-destroying insect hitches a ride on bird species before dropping into new habitats and ecosystems.
One human activity negatively impacting the veery is deforestation which results in habitat loss for this intriguing species. Similarly, human activity has caused the populations of predators to the white-tailed deer to plummet, resulting in a growing population of deer that enjoys munching through the understory of forests that the veery relies on for food and shelter. While the veery isn’t currently endangered, they are a great example of how just one change in an ecosystem can create a domino-effect of changes for all the other inhabitants.