|Male Downy Woodpecker|
The other thing I do is go to AllAboutBirds.org where I can see more photos and also hear their sounds. Its a really helpful component to the site at the time when you hear the sound and you didn't see the bird. I confess, I've spent hours just trying to locate a bird by its sound when I should have been doing something else.
The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest North American woodpecker and looks like the Hairy Woodpecker but is only two thirds its size. They say these two are hard for beginning bird watchers to distinguish between. The differences are, ultimately, in size, as already mentioned. The Hairy Woodpecker is slightly over 9 inches long while Downies are only 6 3/4 inches long. Also their bills are smaller, though male Downies bills are still longer than female Downies. As is common among the animal kingdom, the female lacks an aspect of color known to woodpeckers, namely the red head, or in the case of the Downy, a red nape. But her black bands and white back and belly are just as vibrant.
Above 50 feet, Downies usually choose deciduous trees that have fungus in their bark since this makes the drilling easier. When the hole is dug, the female lays 3-8 eggs and the parents take turns incubating them for the next 2 weeks. Uniquely, the male Hairy Woodpecker will incubate the eggs at night and the female during the day, contrary to the Downy. Why God made them to be different in that respect no one will know.
|Female Downy Woodpecker|
But unlike most birds, woodpeckers do not sing. Instead, they make a high, husky pik, or just plain drill to communicate. Interestingly, when you hear the drilling of a woodpecker, you most likely assume it is drilling for food such as insects but that is not the case. Woodpeckers are known to be quiet feeders even when vigorously drilling. They drill to let other birds know what is their territory. Females drill to let males know they are ready for mating. And who knows, some might drill simply because they like to. Its amazing how solidly God made their heads. Absolutely amazing. And if you don't believe me, try knocking your head into the wall really fast about 15 times and see what happens. (Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any damage done when trying this experiment.)
If you want to attract these adorable little noisemakers, I've read suet feeders are the best choice. But they also like black oil sunflower seeds, millet, peanuts, and (believe it or not) chunky peanut butter. They will also occasionally drink from your hummingbird or oriole feeder though I have never noticed any on ours.
Here's some trivia. Can you guess what the french call these creatures? Pic mineur, which means,... well, Downy Woodpecker.
The oldest known Downy lived to be 11 years, and 11 months old. This bird wasn't partial to even numbers which are something I am inclined towards.
It so happens the story behind this fourth Friday's post also involves my dogs (see link for Baby Squirrel for another instance). I was feeding them some leftovers that they love so dearly when I heard a slightly more uncommon chirp from the pine trees looming in from of me. I followed the sound and spotted many different birds. I ran back inside and grabbed the camera. I was able to get a picture of a bluebird and a squirrel and I took a video of the Downy Woodpecker. Click the video below to see what I saw. (To see the pics of the Squirrel, once again, you can click the link above that says Baby Squirrel).
Sorry for the wobbly camera movement. I was leaned up against our trampoline and holding my breath as much as possible but it still came out shaky. The bird with the woodpecker is a bluebird, as far as I can tell. I never got a good view of its back.
My first guess was the Downy was searching for food because he wasn't making much of a drilling sound. Or maybe it was sort of a mating dance he was doing, trying to attract a female. Well, sorry bud, it didn't look like it worked. It is quite funny though, how he went around and around the branch, pecking away with such ferocity. Amazing creatures. If you look closely you can see his red nape.
And this is the end of the fourth issue of Creatures in My Backyard. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next time.
|Eastern Bluebird's silhouette|