Bird Watcher's General Store

Mystery Pumpkin Eater - 10/26/01


Dear Bird Folks,

For the second year in a row the pumpkin on my front porch has been attacked. Every night when I come home from work I notice a few bites taken out of if. Finally a hole was drilled right through it and all of the pumpkin seeds are eaten out of it. I have no idea what mystery creature is doing this. Could it possibly be a woodpecker?

Cheryl, East Orleans

Ooh, Cheryl,

A good Halloween mystery. I like it. I also happen to be writing this late at night during the only storm that we've had in the last six months. So I have to hurry before we lose power and I'm forced to type at my computer by candlelight.

So you think the mystery pumpkin assailant is a woodpecker, eh? Well, I really don't think a woodpecker is the perpetrator. Even though woodpeckers can easily drill through any pumpkin, they have little reason to do so since they eat mostly insects and are not big fans of pumpkin seeds, not even the salted kind. Also, if it really was a woodpecker, then I wouldn't have anything else to write about for the next hour, so I'm definitely voting down the woodpecker theory.

But if it's not a woodpecker, what could this mystery bird be? Hmmm. A few hundred years ago, during the days of Myles Standish, the rather large, but rare, "pumpkin parrot" used to roam these parts. This massive bird would ravage pumpkin patches at night and leave little for the early settlers to make pies with. The pumpkin parrot has not been seen in years, but every year or so someone reports spotting one. Perhaps you are being visited by something that has long been thought to be extinct. Could you be the one to finally prove that this unusual bird still exists? Nan, now that I think about it, the pumpkin parrot would never bite a pumpkin, it always swallowed them whole.

Many of our more familiar birds like jays and cardinals love pumpkin seeds, but they don't have the ability to get through the pumpkin's thick shell. Yeah sure, they could hire a contractor to cut a hole in the pumpkin for them, but even the cardinals know that contractors never show up.

Like you, I, too, had a mystery creature chew a home in my pumpkin. I also could never catch it in the act, so I set a trap. I built a blind and waited all day and Halloween night for whatever was attacking my pumpkin to show up. I would make a lousy detective, because not long after dark, I fell asleep. Then, just as it was becoming light, I was awakened by a scratching and chewing sound. The sound was coming from inside the pumpkin. I peeked out of my blind, but it was too dark inside the pumpkin to see what was doing the chewing. And I had been too stupid to bring a flashlight. So I waited for the sun to shine into the massive hole that had been chewed into my pumpkin. As I waiting, I noticed that my hands were sweating and my legs had started to tremble. What could it be? Then the sun hit the hole like a laser beam and the startled creature spun around and stared right at me. Whoa! I jumped back. It was not the legendary pumpkin parrot, but something far worse. A creature that is many people's worse nightmare. I was looking face to face with.....a gray squirrel! A squirrel?! I should have known. It chattered at me for about two seconds before scurrying up the nearest tree. And I'm glad it left quickly, as that squirrel had the worst case of pumpkin breath that I've ever experienced.

So there you go Cheryl, your mystery creature is our old pal the squirrel. If you don't believe me, you can borrow my blind and find out for yourself. Just remember to bring a pillow and a flashlight and a breath mint for the squirrel.



Artwork by Catherine Clark


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