Saturday, December 08, 2007

Winter Woodpeckers

The male Downy stops in for some suet. This territory has both a male and a female. Downy Woodpeckers will join mixed flocks of foraging birds and travel around with them, then drop out as the edge of their territory is reached. They will also sometimes cache food beneath bark.

Ever wonder why they're called Downy Woodpeckers? Look at how fluffy his tummy is.
(But then does a Hairy Woodpecker have a hairy look to his belly feathers?)

Did you ever notice that you can't see a Downy Woodpeckers nostrils? They're feather covered. The common wisdom is that the feathers are there to keep the Woodpecker from getting sawdust up his nose. Handy adaptation that.

Earlier the Red-bellied Woodpecker had stopped by the suet, pecked vigorously, then he grabbed a glob in his beak and took off to cache it. Caching food is a regular part of this species winter survival tactics. Some Woodpeckers will also cache nuts. But typically cachers all except the Acorn Woodpecker, peel the hull off, break the nutmeat on a hard surface and then store the bits under bark .

The Acorn Woodpecker on the other hand drills an acorn sized hole in trees, wooden electrical poles, light poles, posts, stumps, you name it, and then jams the acorn into it. If you see a cache there will be row upon row of holes. They're called granaries. This you might suspect leads to many battles with squirrels who attempt to steal the nuts. But the Acorn Woodpecker has an adaptation to help guard against that. Acorn Woodpeckers live in groups and communally store and defend their granaries. Granaries can be huge and examples have been found that have hundreds of thousands of acorns stored in them.

Speaking of the Red-bellied Woodpecker, here he is earlier in the season. Be patient that picture is here for a reason.

The other day someone asked if Woodpeckers ate seed? The answer is that Woodpeckers are primarily insectivores but depending on the species they also have been known to have the occasional seed, nut, or even fruit. Though I had to admit, that though suet has seed and I've seen them at the suet feeder, I'd never seen one frequent the seed only feeders. But that was before today.

Today I looked out and there was the Red-belly gobbling away at the cylinder feeder. My apologies for the photo quality. I just grabbed the point and shoot and clicked. This guy is fast and its the only shot I got off before he whisked away.

Can you find his tail? Look at his belly in the photo where he's at the bird bath. Now look at his belly at the feeder. That skinny little perch doesn't seem to be very convenient for him. Is his tail hanging straight down? Or does he have it tucked up like a hinge using it for balance on the perch? Perhaps it is straight down after all but obscured by the backdrop of the dried sunflower stem.

Donegal Browne

No comments: