Two Red-bellied Woodpeckers

moon phase Week of 02/13/2005 Best days to plant seeds.


Two Red-bellied Woodpeckers

The month of February is notorious as a time when winter is most noticeable.

Around here we often get the same kind of weather—snow and very cold temperatures—in February as in January, and January this year was pretty hard. But the six

decades of winters in my memory remind me that February is often fickle, too.

It may start out cold, then warm into the 40s with overcast skies and some rain

for a week or two.

This year, February began with a variation on this. It started out warm and

sunny, with temps reaching the 50s on February 5th. I'm not complaining; after

a cold and snowy January, it's nice to get weather that feels like spring.

The snow is melting and the wild birds are singing. I watched a white breasted

nuthatch land on the birdfeeder at the window, while another stopped about

a foot away. They didn't pay much attention to each other, and each flew off

with a sunflower seed. Moments later, they were back, but this time a third

nuthatch joined them. This caused one of the others to fly off, and the remaining

one to spread his wings and tail feathers in a fierce display. The third nuthatch

responded in kind. The two continued their stand off for ten seconds or so

hissing at each other with their long, sharp beaks wide open. Then off they

flew, one chasing after the other. This display of territorial aggression between

two males is a sure sign of spring.

The black-capped chickadees, too, are feeling spring in the air, as they sing

their courtship songs to each other. I always stop and whistle with them for

a while. Their song is short but so cheery and upbeat—just what's needed

on a winter day!

The chickadee's cousin, the Tufted titmouse, is also singing his favorite

spring song. He's slightly smaller than the chickadee, but his spring tune

is a little bit bolder: "peto, peto, peto, peto," all in the same,

high-pitched note.

The woodpeckers, too, are letting their presence be known by hammering on

a hard, dead tree limb. The loud, rapid hammering echoes down the valley, letting

everyone know where the woodpecker's territory is.

For the past week, the male Red-bellied woodpeckers have been calling to each

other. Their spring song is a throaty, melodic gurgle, very pleasant to the

ear. They have striking black and white striped backs and creamy undersides,

set off by a fiery red cap. Both males and females are very handsome indeed.

The male's red cap runs up over the top of his head to his beak, while the

female's red covers her neck but stops short of the top of her head. The "Red-bellied" moniker

refers to a few blush feathers on the lower belly. These bold woodpeckers are

about the size of a Blue jay. They are very vocal and will always let you know

when they are around with their loud "kwirr, kwirr!"

Usually, the spring bird songs begin at the end of February. Because the unseasonable

weather warmed February a little early, they are showing up ahead of schedule

this year. It's a great time to keep your ears open, and let the songs of spring

come to you. Make listening a habit each time you go out the door. The bird

you'd like to see may be only a song away.

All art ©2013 Organic Valley

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