Be entertained and learn more about woodpeckers.
Dads provide for us, care for us, teach us and guide us. In honor of Father’s Day and dads everywhere, including the bird world, here is some fun bird-Dad information.
Have you ever seen birds kissing? Northern Cardinals and Western Scrub-Jays do this. The male feeds his mate seeds during courtship and it appears they are kissing. You can often see this near bird feeding stations. He does this to show he can be a good provider to raise a family.
Chickadee and nuthatch dads provide in a different way. They feed Mom while she sits brooding their eggs. Once the babies hatch, Dad tirelessly helps feed them, constantly running out to the “store” for more food.
But, the Father-of-the-Year Award goes to the Downy Woodpecker. He provides for the family by sharing daytime nest duties with Mom; but, he is the one that incubates the eggs at night. Once the babies hatch, he roosts at night in the nest-cavity with the young until they fledge. And then, he teaches the young where to find food. Now that is a dedicated provider.
Thanks for providing for us, Dads.
Dads take on all sorts of roles in the bird world.
Some birds grab “take out” meals. Chickadee and nuthatch dads feed Mom while she broods the eggs. Dad also helps feed the young once they have hatched.
Pygmy and Brown-headed Nuthatch dads provide future-dads with on-the-job training. The young helpers assist Dad in raising the next brood by feeding Mom while she sits on eggs and feeding the nestlings as well as the new fledglings.
Dad’s Favorite Diner
American Goldfinch and Downy Woodpecker dads like to take the family out to eat. When the young fledge from the nest, dad leads them to great food sources as well as teaches them how to use his favorite backyard bird feeders. Check out the picture above of a Downy Woodpecker dad feeding his newly-fledged son.
What kind of “Bird Dad” activity is happening in your backyard?
Tis the season for drumming, pounding, beating, tapping and drilling. All words used to describe what active woodpeckers are doing this spring on the sides of houses, antennas, dead tree trunks and limbs. It’s enough noise to beat the band.
Woodpeckers and flickers make these sounds for three main reasons: communicating, foraging or making a home.
The loudest of the woodpecker sounds are when a male is pounding away on something that resonates really well. This is called drumming. It’s all about communication. The male woodpecker is trying to let potential rivals know that this particular area is his territory and he is also trying to attract a mate.
There is a Red-bellied Woodpecker using the top of a dead tree trunk in my yard to drum out his declaration of territory. He pounds a few times for a few seconds on the resonant trunk and then does a few calls. It’s very interesting to watch and listen.
If woodpeckers aren’t drumming, they are foraging. Two years ago a Downy Woodpecker was seemingly foraging on the wood trim of my house. You could hear him lightly tapping. He was leaving small-diameter, shallow holes all over the place. We went about trying to scare him off by hanging iridescent scare tape over the areas and he eventually gave up for less annoying pastures.
If woodpeckers aren’t drumming or foraging they are drilling. Woodpeckers and flickers are primary cavity nesters. They drill entrance holes into trees and excavate a nice one bedroom home. If a woodpecker is doing this on your house, try placing a nesting box directly over the hole. Use the species-appropriate box and fill it with wood shavings. Otherwise you’ll need to use scare tactics or barriers to encourage them to move elsewhere.
Are woodpeckers causing you to exclaim to beat the band this spring? If so, click here to check out our educational woodpecker page at wbu.com or visit your local Wild Birds Unlimited store for tips and products to alleviate the pounding. Find your nearest store here.
Ever wonder why, starting in the fall, it seems there is a group of different bird species that show up together at feeders and then leave together on a regular basis? Well, it’s that time of year again. Your local foraging guild is reconvening for maximum winter survivability.
The foraging guild is a group of different bird species that band together in winter for foraging and protection. Depending on the region and habitat, foraging guilds can include chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, woodpeckers, creepers and kinglets.
The birds in the guild work cooperatively to maximize their food-finding efforts. In general, each of these birds forages for food in different ways. However, they all learn a bit about how the others feed and it helps with everyone’s survivability.
The chickadees look on the under-side of small and large branches, while the titmice look on the top-side of bigger branches and kinglets look on the top-side of smaller branches. Nuthatches walk down tree trunks looking into crevices while creepers walk up tree trunks. Woodpeckers, well, they usually drill down into the bark for their food; but, they will look on trunks as well as branches.
In the guild, birds are safer than on their own. With all those eyes watching for predators, they create a kind of “neighborhood watch.” They learn each other’s alarm calls so when danger is spotted, one just has to call out to warn the others.
So, it is not a random scenario when multiple species show up at your feeders this season. Like a wave, they move in together, eat a bit, and then move on.
The guild members using my feeders right now are Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers and White-breasted Nuthatches.
Do you have a guild of birds visiting your feeders?
Dads provide for us, care for us, teach us and guide us. In honor of Father’s Day and dads everywhere, including the bird world, I thought I would present some fun bird-dad information.
Dad’s Favorite Diner
Downy Woodpecker and American Goldfinch dads like to take the family out to eat. When the young brood fledges from the nest, dads lead them to great food sources as well as teach them how to use his favorite backyard bird feeders. Check out the picture above of a dad Downy Woodpecker feeding his newly-fledged son.
Dads dig tools! Nuthatches are one of the few species of birds known to use “tools.” The White-breasted Nuthatch has been known to use certain beetles as a tool by crushing ones that are stinky and sweeping them in and around their nest site to deter squirrels from their eggs and young. The Brown-headed Nuthatch will take a loose flake of pine bark in its bill and use it to pry up other scales of bark in search of prey.
Ladies love a sharp-dressed man, even in the bird world. Only the most colorful, sharp-dressed House Finch and goldfinch males are preferred by their female counterparts. Carotenoids, a pigment found in foods that create red, orange and yellow to violet colors in feathers, help a potential dad communicate his reproductive fitness via vibrant and bright plumage. It also shows females that he can be a good family provider knowing where to find quality food and lots of it.
The Father-of-the-Year Award goes to the Downy Woodpecker. Besides sharing daytime nest duties with their mates, only the fathers incubate and brood at night. They also roost in the nest with the nestlings until they fledge.