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.
After a quick hour of travel to Webb Wildlife Management Area with a bus-load of Wild Birds Unlimited store owners, we step off the bus to low humidity and 82° F. There are no bugs. Is this really the South in summer?
We begin meandering down the gravel lane with clear views through the pine stands on either side of us.
The first bird calling is the Bachmann’s Sparrow. Do you hear its whistle-note followed by a trill reminiscent of a towhee? Look, here it is in the spotting scope.
Do you hear the Northern Bobwhite’s calling to each other? “Bob, bob, WHITE”
Wow! Our target bird for the day! See the woodpeckers with the big white patches on their cheeks? Those are Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. There are three of them at eye-level flaking bark off the pines to find insects. (pictured above)
Just down the lane is a Blue Grosbeak in the grass. What a view!
There’s an Eastern Bluebird perched on the nest box.
On the utility wire above is another “blue” bird, the Indigo Bunting, singing “fire, fire, where, where, here, here, see it see it.”
Oh, look, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird is chasing the Indigo.
Someone found a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher nest. Look in the scope. You can see the babies’ heads pop up when mom and dad come in with caterpillars.
Listen! Do you hear the squeak-toy call of the Brown-headed Nuthatch? There they are. I see them; a foraging family group.
Do you see the Northern Parula? Its throat and chest are yellow but so is its lower bill. See how brilliant the yellow is in the sunlight?
Here comes another group of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. There are five this time.
Too bad we didn’t see the Mississippi Kites. Oh, wait, there’s one!
What a perfect day for bird watching!
Have you ever had a perfect day outdoors?
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.