Tales from the Bird Sanctuary: Woodpecker HavenPosted: February 20, 2023 Filed under: Bird Watching, Tales from the Bird Sanctuary | Tags: Bird Watching, Kaye Lynne Booth, Nuthatch, Tales from the Bird Sanctuary, Woodpeckers, Writing to be Read 5 Comments
I get a wide variety of birds visiting my bird sanctuary, but today I’d like to focus on the different types of woodpeckers. Woodpeckers are curious birds that use their beaks in ways which other birds do not. No matter the type, they all have long, pointed bills, which they use to drill through wood and tree bark in order to locate and get to the insects underneath or to mark their territories. With strong claws, they cling to tree trunks, using their tails as props, and their flight patterns are termed undulating. There are many varieties, including woodpeckers, sapsuckers, and flickers, and several of them visit my yard on a regular basis.
Some varieties are similar in appearance with their black and white coloring, which always make them look as if they’re wearing formal attire. Among these black & white beauties are the hairy woodpecker, Nutall’s woodpecker, and Williamson’s Sapsucker, featured in the gallery below. The Hairy Woodpeckers are Robin-sized, (9 inches), with a loud distinctive peek sound and single-pitched rattled, and they are found all across the United States. Slightly larger, (9 1/2 inches), makes a soft churring sound. The Nuttall’s Woodpecker is smaller than those two, (7-7 1/2 inches), has a rolling preep call and a sharp pit-it sound.
Woodpeckers get their food by hammering holes in the bark, and extracting insects or grubs with long, flexible tongues. They start with a soft tapping to locate the food, and once located, they get down to business. It’s chow time! Hard, rapid drumming on dry limbs indicates that a woodpecker is claiming its territory and can be loud enough to be audible from great distances. One summer I had one who kept claiming its territory on my metal ladder, which was quite the alarm clock on early mornings.
More colorful are the grey and tan Northern Red-shafted Flickers, like the young one shown here, which I rescued last summer. (You can read about that here.) These birds are in the woodpecker family, building their nests in holes in trees, but feed on ants and ground insects, as well as berries, and repeat a loud wicka, wicka, wicka sound. They are elusive birds which are difficult to photograph. I only was able to get the photos like the one above because the little guy was stranded. He took off and disappeared into the forest just as soon as he was able.
Although they aren’t in the woodpecker family, Nuthatches have many similarities to them, especially in their ‘formal attire’, their long, pointed beaks, and the fact that they are cavity dwellers. They also nest in holes in hollow trees, and use their long, sharp beaks to tap-tap-tap on the trees, but their tapping is not as fast or as loud as that of the woodpeckers. They tap on the trees to crack open seeds, rather than to drill into the wood. But these small birds, (4 1/2 – 6 inches), don’t use their tails as props like the woodpeckers do, and are often seen moving down the tree trunk head first. I call them little forest acrobats because of this and the fact they they also can go the full diameter of a tree branch, walking on the underside with their heads toward the ground. Usually I have the slightly larger White-breasted Nuthatches, like the one above, but this past year, I also had visits from the Red-breasted variety, as well.
For Kaye Lynne Booth, writing is a passion. Kaye Lynne is an author with published short fiction and poetry, both online and in print, including her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction; and her paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets. Kaye holds a dual M.F.A. degree in Creative Writing with emphasis in genre fiction and screenwriting, and an M.A. in publishing. Kaye Lynne is the founder of WordCrafter Quality Writing & Author Services and WordCrafter Press. She also maintains an authors’ blog and website, Writing to be Read, where she publishes content of interest in the literary world.
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I don’t see many woodpeckers in my area but do hear them in nearby trees.
To protect songbirds, which are prey to many of the larger species, I feed magpies, blue jays, crows, and ravens dog kibble every morning — spreading the kibble throughout the yard to help avoid fights. They’re always a great spectacle.
Last year, a raven and three fledgling magpies visited the yard several times as a family group. I’d love to know the story behind their relationship.
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Thanks for sharing your experiences, Kathy. I have resident raven’s, but the jays just flock through and clean out all my seed daily. My woodpeckers don’t seem to bother the littler birds, as they all occupy the feeding areas together. The smaller birds give way to the woodpeckers, but everyone gets a turn.
HI Kaye, a lovely post about woodpeckers which I am also very fond off. My family of woodpeckers that I’d been monitoring were all killed during a vicious hail storm last year. I was devastated. A new couple has moved into the nest so, hopefully, we will get more babies.
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Hi Robbie, Thanks for reading. 🙂 I remember that you postedd something about losing your woodpecker family a while back. One year I had three babies all summer. I think they got big enough to fend for themselves and the parents just took off and left them.
How wonderful 💚
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