Woodpeckers

moon phase Week of 02/10/2002 Best days to cut wood

Woodpeckers

Some of the most striking and colorful birds to see at the birdfeeders are the woodpeckers. Here in Wisconsin one might see four different kinds of woodpeckers visiting a winter bird feeder.

The small five-inch downy woodpecker is the bravest of these. They will land on the window sill or back porch even while youíre standing close by. They may even be so bold as to land in your hand if you offer them some black sunflower seeds. Their cousins, the hairy woodpeckers look almost identical to the downy but are a couple of inches larger. Both the downy and hairy woodpeckers are black and white stripped with the male having a brilliant patch of red at the back of his head.

The huge pileated woodpecker may also be a visitor who welcomes a free handout. The female pileated will also have a beautiful red crest similar to that of the male but he has an extra small patch of red under his eye. At a distance they might be mistaken for a crow as they fly across an open area. Itís a rare sight to see them in the yard but if there is some food, they might show up.

The red-headed woodpeckers and the flicks tend to migrate south for the winter.

Another member of the woodpecker family that is a common winter visitor here, is the red-bellied woodpecker. These bold and colorful birds will land on a bird feeder regardless of what other bird may already be there. Being the same size as the hairy woodpecker they will even land among a group of sassy blue jays to get their share of the seed. His black and white ladder back gives way to a lovely red crown which extends from the back of his neck to the base of his long bill. The female also has a rich red crown but herís stops at the top of her head. A slight blush of red on the their belly gives them their name but you have to look closely.

The red-bellied woodpecker, like the other woodpeckers arenít greedy in their feeding habits, taking a single sunflower seed at a time and flying off with it. Not being able to hold the seed in their feet while they peck it open, they find a crack in the bark of a tree to place the seed in. With their sharp beaks they hammer the seed open to get at the tasty meat inside. This means making lots of trips from the tree to the feeder before they get enough to eat.

All the wooders are very active and vocal birds and can give you hours of bird-watching pleasure. Their colorful presence is always a welcome sight on a cold winterís day.

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