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      Nature Report: Tuna Time

      It is tuna time in South Texas. The fruit or tuna of the prickly pear cactus is ripening, and it is a tasty treat for a variety of wildlife.

      The golden fronted woodpecker is among the first to drill into the fruit, and once the juicy tuna is open bees are quickly attracted to the sweet pulp.

      The curve-billed thrasher has no problem piercing the fruit, but is having to stretch to reach the one it wants. The thorny cactus is no obstacle to the thrasher, and the bird does not hesitate to hop on to the prickly pad to more easily access the ripe tuna.

      Thrashers not only enjoy dinning on the fruit of the prickly pear cactus, but they also make their nest in the midst of the thorny plant.

      In addition to feeding their young a variety of insects they supplement their diet with the cactus fruit.

      Tunas are a favorite of scaled quail, and at first only the female avails herself of the treat, but her mate soon joins her, and together they peck away extracting the purple pulp and myriad tiny seeds within.

      No creature enjoys the tasty tunas more than the ground squirrel, but that first bite appears to be a little bit too big to handle.

      Eventually, the ground squirrel gets to the sweet pulp and spends several minutes munching the tuna. Standing on its haunches and grasping the fruit with its forepaws the ground squirrel sinks its teeth into the tuna.

      So, for a while the creatures of the chaparral enjoy their annual summertime treat, but at the rate the tunas are being devoured they may not last long.