Itís a cold rainy morning and Iím standing at the sink doing the breakfast dishes. This is a job made more pleasant by a bird feeder in front of me. The birds have gotten used to seeing me standing there and land only a couple feet away.
The cold and the light rain seem to have given the birds a sharper appetite and the seeds are the fuel that warms their bodies.
A sharp tapping comes from the window frame above my head. I glanced up to see a downy woodpecker hammering at the wood frame. I think he was frustrated that there were too many other birds on the feeder below him. He then dropped down to the edge of the feeder not spooking the seven goldfinches already there. He reached over with his pointed beak and picked up a single sunflower seed and flew off with it. A minute later he was back for another.
While on a walk yesterday I stopped to watch a small downy woodpecker in a large patch of goldenrod. He was hammering away at a large oval gall in the stem of a goldenrod. With his sharp beak he would chisel a hole in the center of the gall. With his sharp pointed tongue, he speared the small round grub inside then flew to another goldenrod.
The downy woodpecker is only about 5 1/2 inches long, tip of tail to tip of beak. Their black and white markings are the same in both male and female, except that the males have a patch of rich red on the backs of their heads.
These little woodpeckers can get very used to people and may even be coaxed to land in your hand for some seed.
In spite of their size they will spend the cold winters here in the north. Other woodpeckers I might see at my feeders this winter include the hairy woodpecker, the red-bellied and the pileated woodpeckers. The woodpeckers who opened their summers here but not the winters include the red- headed woodpecker and yellow shafted flicker.
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