We have a medlar tree in our garden the fruit of which is about 50% the size of a golf ball with a remarkably hard outer shell. The only birds I’ve noticed showing any
interest in the medlars are Pied Currawongs, and then only when the hard frosts set in and pickings are slim. However, for several seasons, I’ve noticed that medlars have had these opportunistic scavengers stymied when it comes to penetrating the hard shell
to access the pulpy contents.
Often the fruit is carried onto the house roof or placed in the guttering while the currawong hammers away to no avail because, even though its heavy bill appears to be
a good hacking tool, the unsupported fruit skids away without breaking. At other times medlars are carried onto the metal roof of the carport where, on quiet winter afternoons, the resulting sudden tintinnabulation does little to enamour me to the curmudgeonly
currawong coteries of Canberra.
Then, a couple of days ago, I noticed opened medlars laying beneath our grand old White Cedar Tree and this morning, while widow gazing, I watched a currawong perched
on a hefty horizontal limb hacking away at a medlar that seemed fixed in position. At first I thought the bird was holding the fruit with its toes but they were placed well back from the jack-hammering bill. I commandeered a loitering brat and bade her fetch
the step ladder to investigate. She reported back that (i) it was “freaking cold” and (ii) the medlar was wedged in a bark fissure about 20mm wide. As White Cedars age their bark becomes heavily fissured. I know because I planted our tree back in 1980 when
it was just a little twiggling fresh from the Yarralumla Nursery.
To state what is probably the barking obvious currawongs haven’t wedged medlars in the bark fissures previously because the fissures weren’t large enough.