Dung-on-a-twig: Mistletoe and Birds
[Part 1]

A mistletoe growing on a host tree. Photo by Marites Cervero

Yes, we have mistletoes here in the Philippines. Mistletoes are botanically interesting plants as they are hemiparasites (or partial parasites). They usually grow on trunks or branches of trees and send out roots that penetrate the host tree’s branches. They can generate their own food through photosynthesis but they can also extract some nutrients from their host tree.

Mistletoe comes from two Anglo-Saxon words: “Mistel” meaning dung and “tan” which is a word for twig. So, mistletoe means “dung-on-a-twig.” This name came about when early botanists observed mistletoe would often appear on a branch or twig where birds had left droppings.

And this is how mistletoes are spread: A bird (like this immature Buzzing Flowerpecker) eats the very sticky berry fruits of the mistletoe and then poops and wipes it off another branch. This flowerpecker, by the way is a common, widespread Philippine endemic found in most islands except Palawan.

Next week: another bird showing this interesting behavior. Happy birding!

**Update: Check the rest of this series here:
Part 2: Pygmy Flowerpecker
Part 3: Fire-breasted Flowerpecker

Buzzing Flowerpecker (immature), Dicaeum hypoleucum
July 2010, Mt. Polis, the Cordilleras, Northern Luzon, Philippines

3 thoughts on “Dung-on-a-twig: Mistletoe and Birds
[Part 1]”

  1. in the UK mistletoe is spread by birds wiping their beaks on a branch to remove the sticky seed

  2. I love the website and getting the updates – the Buzzing Flowerpecker video is great! It all makes me nostalgic and hopeful for a second trip.

  3. Thanks Robin and Patricia for viewing. I’m glad you enjoyed the video.

    @Patricia – you should come back! There still lots to see in the Philippines.

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