RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – Throughout the South Texas wildlands mother nature provides sustenance for wildlife year-round, and in the wintertime, there is a special fruiting cactus that provides vital nutrition.
Native fruiting plants are in short supply during the winter in South Texas, but one reliable delicacy is the Tasajillo berry.
A choice winter treat for birds and other denizens of the chaparral is the bright red fruit of the Tasajillo. The Tasajillo is sometimes called Christmas cactus for its propensity to fruit during the holiday season.
This Christmas bounty is a particular favorite of the mockingbird who plucks the ripe fruit with ease from the thorny Tasajillo.
Some folks refer to Tasajillo as jumping cactus because if you are unfortunate enough to brush up against it the thorny branches will readily attach themselves to your clothing or bare skin.
Despite the plentifulness of the Tasajillo berries, the mockingbird is not inclined to share its bounty and keeps a watchful eye out for any other birds that might want to sample a tasty fruit. From its lofty perch high in the Tasajillo, the mockingbird stands guard over its edible treasure.
When a cardinal lands to inspect the berries, the vigilant mockingbird quickly routs the intruder.
However, the golden fronted woodpecker is more than a match for the feisty mockingbird who doesn’t seem willing to take on the interloper. Or maybe the mockingbird thinks the woodpecker is only interested in drilling an old branch near the Tasajillo, but then the woodpecker suddenly snatches a berry right below the mockingbird’s lookout post.
The good news is that there are plenty of Tasajillo berries to go around and eventually the Cardinals and Pyrrhuloxia all manage to grab a meal.