Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Backyard Friends: Woodpeckers

Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, bird, backyard bird

    The natural world is full of surprises.  Take woodpeckers for example; I would have never known that these two very different looking birds, the Downy Woodpecker (above) and the Red Shafted Flicker (below), are actually related.  They both belong to the family Picidae, which means tree dwelling and insect eating; they each have "zygodactyl" feet (two toes facing front and two facing rear), strong sharp bills for digging into trees, and sticky tongues for eating wood-boring insects.  Many Picidae have patches of red and yellow on their heads and bellies and their stiff tail is used as a prop.  Their distinct flight is deeply undulating; as they fly from tree to tree, they will drop towards the ground, and then, with a few quick beats of their wings, swoop back up again.  

woodpecker, red shafted flicker, bird, backyard bird

This Red Shafted Flicker is about 12 inches in length and has a red moustache patch on its face.  Whenever I see this bird come to my feeders it is always solitary and never stays very long.  

The Downy Woodpecker is only about 6 or 7 inches long and its red patch is on the back of its head.  Similar to the Flicker, this little bird is also solitary, but it does seem to hang around a bit longer.  It's a bit comical watching the Downy as it climbs straight up the support beam to the feeder because as it hops upward its head bops from side to side as if it is peeking around each side.  So funny!

I'm glad though that these birds are opportunistic feeders and enjoy eating the suet cakes I keep in my backyard, allowing me the opportunity to see them out my kitchen window, and take a few pictures of them as well.


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