Christmas Mockingbird

The Ugly Side of Holly Berries

Sitting in the early morning sunshine, this young mockingbird sits and sings on a branch of holly on a cold winter morning. The holly bush has started showing the famous red berries that are the cause for the snipping of so many branches for holiday decorations.

Take care when handling holly though. Not only do the thick waxy green leaves have spines that will easily puncture your skin, but the berries themselves are toxic to humans. Of course, the berries are not really berries. They actually are a small stone fruit.

An adult ingesting those small red fruits could expect a severe stomach-ache and possibly some very fast, uncontrollable and really unpleasant trips to the bathroom. However, if a small child gets a hold of these fruits, then as little as 20 of them can cause an unintended trip to the emergency room or possibly death.

Some pets will become ill by eating the fruit or chewing on the leaves also. Further, if your pet can reach it, odds our your child will too. So it is a wise policy to keep both children and pets out of reach of these bright-colored fruits. Interestingly, the fruits do not have the same effect on birds.

In fact, seeing this bird on the holly reminds me of the Christmas Mockingbirdinteresting side effect that these little fruits have. In late winter after the fruits have ripened and begin to fall of the holly bushes, small birds, like our friend here, will gather around the bush and feast on the fallen fruit.

The birds will then happily spread the seeds wherever they go. This is assuming they can still fly. The overripe fruit that falls on the ground will ferment. This fermentation causes our little feather friends to get a little tipsy after eating the fruit.

I’ve watched a mockingbird try to fly while only using one wing. Try as it might, it couldn’t get both wings to flap at the same time. The result was a frenzied ballet of feathers as the poor bird could only go in circles until it got dizzy, I’m guessing from the alcohol, and fall sideways on to the ground. It would rest for a minute, get up and try the other wing with the same results.

Hopefully this young mockingbird won’t experience any hangovers in it’s promising future.

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