It’s in your nature: Knowing the local woodpeckers
If you are feeding your winter birds as I by including suet blocks or beef suet, you’re certainly attracting some woodpeckers. We are fortunate in the Times News area to find seven different species of woodpeckers. Of the seven, six of them can be found here in the winter months.
Two species in particular are probably making regular visits to your feeder, and of course, to entertain you. Those are the downy woodpecker and the red-bellied woodpecker.
“Downies” are the smallest of the woodpeckers with a white belly and black wing feathers flecked with white. They are only about ¾-inch larger than the pesty house finches.
Red-bellied woodpeckers are newcomers to this region.
Back in about 1960 when I started with my birding hobby, there were no red-bellied woodpeckers here. They were a common southern species. But probably due to increased bird feeder use by many households and of course, our warming climate, they now live and breed here. They have moved into New York state and farther north too. The name is not very fitting. Unless seen in perfect lighting conditions it is almost impossible to see the pinkish tinge on part of their belly. They are often confused with a red-headed woodpecker whose head is indeed very red.
Depending on your location, you could possibly see a pileated woodpecker, yellow-bellied sapsucker, or rarely, the rather reclusive hairy woodpecker at your feeding stations. The latter seldom strays from the “deeper” woodlands. The sixth woodpecker that can overwinter here is the northern flicker, but nearly all migrate farther south to Delaware, Maryland or Virginia. I’m pleasantly surprised to see the population of “pileateds” increasing and I’m attributing that to the forest trees increasing in size with less logging occurring.
Worth noting is that of the woodpecker species, the flicker from late March through November, spends most of its time feeding on the ground eating their favorite food, ants. Pileated woodpeckers also spend a great deal of time close to the ground often hammering away at fallen and rotting tree trunks trying to find carpenter ants and grubs. As I’m typing this column, I’ve been enjoying two downy woodpeckers jockeying for position at the suet blocks hanging on our porch railing. So, grab your binoculars, put out some suet, and enjoy the woodpeckers in your backyard and the other birds as well. Better still, just get out there.
See additional photos on page A2.
Test Your Outdoor Knowledge: True/False. Woodpeckers have a nictitating membrane (third eyelid) to help keep wood chips from damaging their eyes.
Last Week’s Trivia Answer: A young fox can be correctly called a kit, pup or cub. Although, pup is the term most often used.
Email Barry Reed at email@example.com