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“Bird-Catcher Tree” Lures Birds with Free Meals, Then Accidentally Kills Them

Pisonia Brunoniana is a species of small flowering trees native to tropical regions from Hawaii to New Zealand, and as far west as India. The pisonia tree has soft brittle wood with large glossy leaves and a dark secret. If you search among its roots and branches, you’re likely to find thousands of delicate bones and tiny mummified corpses. It is this macabre feature that gives the tree its creepy nickname – “the birdcatcher tree”.

The pisonia tree produces long seed pods coated with a thick sticky mucus that entraps insects and the birds tempted to feast on them. The ensnared insects look like easy pickings to unsuspecting birds, but if they’re not careful, they can easily get entangled in the sticky seedpods themselves. Too many seeds caught among their feathers can weigh the birds down and prevent them from flying off the tree. If they’re not picked off by a passing scavenger, the birds are doomed to a slow death by starvation. Often, the birds die without ever escaping the pisonia’s branches, which means their withered corpses are left dangling like some strange fruit or a creepy Christmas ornament. In what can only be described as a vicious cycle, birds of prey tempted by the trapped birds sometimes also get entangled in sticky seeds and become trapped themselves.

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