Picnic In February

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  by Dan

American Robin (Turdus migratorius) by Dan

Picnic In February ~ by Dorothy Malcolm

It’s open to all who wish to come. So some find it so and make it a habit to always be around every day–the Blue Jays, a pain of Cardinals, Red-winged Blackbirds, Doves and squirrels. In the winter months, Titmouse, Pine Warblers and occasionally Blackbirds add to the mix.

Today started out rather ordinary with Bible reading, breakfast, a few pills, letting Ruby my dog in and out of the house several times and talking myself into going to the bank and grocery.

After lunch Ruby and I went out for her afternoon walk. After this I started pricing things for a garage sale that will be sometime this spring. I just happen ed to look out the patio door and saw a most glorious sight – ROBINS!

Time just stopped for me. I was totally taken in by the sight of them. Where they came from it is obvious they had a great time because they looked really good and healthy. Their feathers looked as smooth and soft as velvet. Hopping, stopping, looking, flicking leaves, talking – oh, what a great time they and I were having – by now I’m just quietly looking out a small back bathroom window where I could get a better view.

What then! It is my daughter asking on behalf of her daughter how Ruby is doing. So I gave a quick report and then excitedly told her about the Robins. Soon as I could I hung up and got back to the little window only to hear two gunshots in the neighborhood.

But why now! I’ve heard this a few days in the past week, but am real unhappy about it now!

Of course the Robins flew off. Well they and I had great joy for a short time until someone spoiled the picnic!

Is this not the way some things are in our lives? But what joy there will be in the future when we will have a forever picnic in the presence of the Lord. There will be a new heaven and new earth that will not be spoiled by anyone or anything. It will be awesome and I suspect it will include birds along with many awesome creatures and all of God’s redeemed!

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. (Revelation 21:5 KJV)

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (2 Peter 3:11-13 KJV)

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American Robin (Turdus migratorius) by Dan at Bok Sanctuary

American Robin (Turdus migratorius) by Dan at Bok Sanctuary

See Dorothy Malcolm’s Other articles:

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(P.S. This was written in February, but I just now worked it up. Sorry, Dottie)

Peter’s Female Blackbird

Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) by Ian

Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) by Ian

I don’t suppose that, what happened some years ago, will ever happen again.

My Dutch wife and I were living in a little town called March and we made sure that various birds were fed every day from a large feeding tray in our garden. Winter was upon us, but very sadly, my wife had an accident and died about a week later in hospital.

There was a particular female blackbird who came for food, every morning, and allowed me to speak to her while only a couple of feet away. Coinciding with losing my wife, this same bird lost her mate and by the state of
his body I think a sparrow hawk got him. Unfortunately, my female blackbird refused to go to a special piece of ground which I had dug and loaded it with worms, purchased from the local fishing tackle shop. Even after I removed the dead mutilated blackbird, his female mate would go nowhere near that little plot of dug soil because her mate had sadly met his end quite nearby. I believe this precious bird knew that my wife was missing also and she seemed to stay longer, and be near me every morning.

To my great joy, one morning, this loving bird hopped behind me as I walked toward the back entrance of my bungalow. I entered my kitchen and she waited outside. Would she come in I wondered ? She knew my voice and hopped into my kitchen and waited patiently. ( I have a photo of her waiting in front of my ‘fridge.) Then I opened the ‘fridge door and gave her a few pieces of seed cake.

Every morning thereafter my bird came to my back door and came into my kitchen at my invitation. To me, it was a wonder to see a “wild” blackbird patiently waiting in front of my ‘fridge knowing about the seed cake behind that big white door, just for her.

Jesus said that ‘ unless we become like children we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven ‘ That bird sure did have a childlike faith. It taught me that once we begin to put food out for wild birds in the winter we must continue daily. Thinking of the various types of birds which visited my garden in the winter, I surmised that some had come many miles. How very sad if, some wintry day, they came only to find the table was bare ?

I moved home, some months later, and still wonder what happened to this blackbird who, I’m sure, shared the sorrow of her loss with this poor guy.

By Peter England, UK

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Peter’s Crow From The Sky

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) Southend-on-Sea England ©WikiC

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) Southend-on-Sea England ©WikiC

Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat. (Job 38:41 KJV)

Here’s a true account of a bird that seemingly ‘dropped ‘ out of the sky and landed near to my feet.

How can I forget when one sunny spring morning a young crow landed exhausted at my feet whilst I was gardening. I picked him up and placed him on a ledge protruding from a large bird house. ” Wait there !! ” I told him, which seemed a bit silly because that bird was in no physical condition to go anywhere for a few days. Neither did he speak English ?

I kept feeding him and spending time talking to him until about 3 days later he hopped on to my head and allowed me to carry on doing some gardening.

Just for fun I knocked at my back door and enquired of my wife if she had seen my bird that day. It was now “my bird ” and it fluttered on to her head ( I still have the photograph ) Might I say it is a rare photo because I am told that not many Dutch women have been seen walking around with a live crow on their heads.

Having established a ” motherly ” relationship with a beautiful shiny black crow I was not really surprised when he used to fly from window to window to check if I was at home. I warned visitors who used my upstairs bathroom that my crow might try to peep in the window whilst looking for me.

It only seemed like a few weeks and my crow seemed to enjoy himself and the regular food I gave him. He must have stayed in my large bird house at night and seemed so pleased to see me every day.

One day whilst out in the garden with my new-found friend, on his feeding perch, there came the sound from above of some crows circling and making crow noises. They seemed to fly away but flew even lower as they spotted “my bird “

I would like to put a Christian analogy to this story and say that “he heard the call from on high ” then spread his now strong wings and flew heavenward to join his family.

Sometimes I wonder why God speaks to us through His creation but I know that my Heavenly Father sees even the sparrow fall. I kinda believe that He gave ‘my bird ‘  just enough strength to make it to His bird-loving son. It was a short time of teaching and one that I’ll never forget.

ps. On another occasion I tamed a blackbird who use to walk behind me…………….

By Peter England, U.K.


Lee’s Addition:

Peter England is a retired pastor who lives in England. He is sending me some of his stories about his encounters with birds from a Christian perspective. I trust we will enjoy these.

He didn’t say what type of Crow, so this is one of the English Crows. Crows and Ravens are in the same family.

Another article by Peter:

The Whole Creation Has Been Groaning………..

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The Whole Creation Has Been Groaning………..

Anole on Fence - Carolina Anole ©WikiC

Anole on Fence – Carolina Anole ©WikiC

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. (Romans 8:22)

The following is not one of my latest stories, but because it concerns one of God’s creations I dare to let you see it. Many people would laugh at me and, by the way some of my happenings can be seen as being laughable….even unbelievable!

About two years ago, when I was living in West Palm Beach, I was going through a difficult time. I well remember the few days when I used to sit outside and read. Lizards, as you Americans know, are a well-known sight and one particular lizard came down from the tree at the back of me and hid behind the drain pipe. It kept peeping at me from one side of pipe to the other. I took little notice!

The next day, same lizard, came across the lawn and performed once more. Maybe it wanted to grab my attention, but then it was only a common lizard.

On day three the same lizard ( or so I believe ) scampered across the lawn and commenced to do its tricks from behind the drain pipe. However, I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me, reminding me of the Scripture in Jonah 4: 7 how that God appointed a worm to attack the gourd that was sheltering Jonah. Could it be that God had sent a lizard to tell me that He would be with me and never forsake me. despite my difficult circumstances? I felt it necessary to put may tongue out at him and if he responded I would know that God was in this strange situation!

But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. (Jonah 4:7)

Anole Lick ©WikiC

Anole Lick ©WikiC

The next time my little friend popped its head out and looked at me, I put my tongue out at him. Immediately out came a big orange tongue like a small balloon! Then this ‘appointed ‘ lizard disappeared, never to be seen again. A few days later I was admitted into Wellington Hospital with a virus which took me off my feet. I knew that God was aware of all my circumstances even to the most minute detail.

Peter England

(One of this blog’s readers and commenter)

Green Anole - Wikipedia


Lee’s Addition:

This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me. (Psalms 119:50)

Thanks Peter for an interesting story and inspiration.

Peter is one of our reader’s and comments often. He lives in the U.K. at the time. He has some more tales that will shared later. The one about his encounter with a blackbird will be published soon.

I am always willing to use guest writers. If you have something to share, let me know. I can be reached at Lee@Leesbird.com

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Friend Downy – The Woodpeckers

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) Brevard Zoo by Dan

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) Brevard Zoo by Dan

VI

FRIEND DOWNY

No better little bird comes to our orchards than our friend the downy woodpecker. He is the smallest and one of the most sociable of our woodpeckers,—a little, spotted, black-and-white fellow, precisely like his larger cousin the hairy, except in having the outer tail-feathers barred instead of plain. Nearly everything that can be said of one is equally true of the other on a smaller scale. They look alike, they act alike, and their nests and eggs are alike in everything but size.

Downy is the most industrious of birds. He is seldom idle and never in mischief. As he does not fear men, but likes to live in orchards and in the neighborhood of fields, he is a good friend to us. On the farm he installs himself as Inspector of Apple-trees. It is an old and an honorable profession among birds. The pay is small, consisting only of what can be picked up, but, as cultivated trees are so infested with insects that food is always plentiful, and as they have usually a dead branch suitable to nest in, Downy asks no more. Summer and winter he works on our orchards. At sunrise he begins, and he patrols the branches till sunset. He taps on the trunks to see whether he can hear any rascally borers inside. He inspects every tree carefully in a thorough and systematic way, beginning low down and following up with a peek into every crevice and a tap upon every spot that looks suspicious. If he sees anything which ought not to be there, he removes it at once.

Downy

Downy

A moth had laid her eggs in a crack in the bark, expecting to hatch out a fine brood of caterpillars: but Downy ate them all, thus saving a whole branch from being overrun with caterpillars and left fruitless, leafless, and dying. A beetle had just deposited her eggs here. Downy saw her, and took not only the eggs but the beetle herself. Those eggs would have hatched into boring larvæ, which would have girdled and killed some of the branches, or have burrowed under the bark, causing it to fall off, or have bored into the wood and, perhaps, have killed the tree.

Nor is the full-grown borer exempt. Downy hears him, pecks a few strokes, and harpoons him with unerring aim. When Downy has made an arrest in this way, the prisoner does not escape from the police. Here is a colony of ants, running up the tree in one line and down in another, touching each other with their feelers as they pass. A feast for our friend! He takes both columns, and leaves none to tell the tale. This is a good deed, too, since ants are of no benefit to fruit-trees and are very fond of the dead-ripe fruit.

And Downy is never too busy to listen for borers. They are fine plump morsels much to his taste, not so sour as ants, nor so hard-shelled as beetles, nor so insipid as insects’ eggs. A good borer is his preferred dainty. The work he does in catching borers is of incalculable benefit, for no other bird can take his place. The warblers, the vireos, and some other birds in summer, the chickadees and nuthatches all the year round, are helping to eat up the eggs and insects that lie near the surface, but the only birds equipped for digging deep under the bark and dragging forth the refractory grubs are the woodpeckers.

So Downy works at his self-appointed task in our orchards summer and winter, as regular as a policeman on his beat. But he is much more than a policeman, for he acts as judge, jury, jailer, and jail. All the evidence he asks against any insect is to find him loafing about the premises. “I swallow him first and find out afterwards whether he was guilty,” says Downy with a wink and a nod.

Most birds do not stay all the year, in the North, at least, and most, in return for their labors in the spring, demand some portion of the fruit or grain of midsummer and autumn. Not so Downy. His services are entirely gratuitous; he works twice as long as most others. He spends the year with us, no winter ever too severe for him, no summer too hot; and he never taxes the orchard, nor takes tribute from the berry patch. Only a quarter of his food is vegetable, the rest being made up of injurious insects; and the vegetable portion consists entirely of wild fruits and weed-seeds, nothing that man eats or uses. Downy feeds on the wild dogwood berries, a few pokeberries, the fruit of the woodbine, and the seeds of the poison-ivy,—whatever scanty and rather inferior fare is to be had at Nature’s fall and winter table.

If in the cold winter weather we will take pains to hang out a bone with some meat on it, raw or cooked, or a piece of suet, taking care that it is not salted,—for few wild birds except the crossbills can eat salted food,—we may see how he appreciates our thoughtfulness. Shall we grudge him a bone from our own abundance, or neglect to fasten it firmly out of reach of the cat and dog? If his cousin the hairy and his neighbor the chickadee come and eat with him, bid them a hearty welcome. The feast is spread for all the birds that help men, and friend Downy shall be their host.


Lee’s Addition:

Downy Woodpecker by Lee Lake Parker Park

Downy Woodpecker by Lee Lake Parker Park

He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great. (Psalms 115:13 KJV)

This is Chapter VI from The Woodpeckers book. Our writer, Fannie Hardy Eckstorm, wrote this in 1901. There are 16 chapters, plus the Forward, which are about the Woodpecker Family here in America. All the chapters can be found on The Woodpeckers page. I added photos to help enhance the article. In 1901, photography was not like today.

Woodpeckers belong to the Picidae – Woodpeckers Family.

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Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) by Raymond Barlow

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) by Raymond Barlow

We have another neat creation from the Lord. I always enjoy watching this little Woodpecker checking out the trees nearby.

Adult Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest of North America’s woodpeckers but there are many smaller species elsewhere, especially the piculets. The total length of the species ranges from 5.5 to 7.1 in (14 to 18 cm) and the wingspan from 9.8 to 12 in (25 to 31 cm).

The Downy Woodpecker is mainly black on the upperparts and wings, with a white back, throat and belly and white spotting on the wings. There is a white bar above the eye and one below. They have a black tail with white outer feathers barred with black. Adult males have a red patch on the back of the head whereas juvenile birds display a red cap.

Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) by Daves BirdingPix

Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) by Daves BirdingPix

The Downy Woodpecker is virtually identical in plumage pattern to the much larger Hairy Woodpecker, but it can be distinguished from the Hairy by the presence of black spots on its white tail feathers and the length of its bill. The Downy Woodpecker’s bill is shorter than its head, whereas the Hairy Woodpecker’s bill is approximately equal to head length.

The Downy Woodpecker gives a number of vocalizations, including a short pik call. Like other woodpeckers, it also produces a drumming sound with its beak as it pecks into trees. Compared to other North American species its drums are slow. (Wikipedia with editing and sounds from xeno-canto)

Drumming

pik and rattle call

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Ochre-collared Piculet (Picumnus temminckii) by Dario Sanches

Ochre-collared Piculet (Picumnus temminckii) by Dario Sanches

See:

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How A Flicker Feeds Her Young – The Woodpeckers

Northern Flicker cropped by Lee at S. Lk Howard Ntr Pk

Northern Flicker by Lee at S. Lk Howard Nature Pk

V

HOW A FLICKER FEEDS HER YOUNG

Based upon the observations of Mr. William Brewster.

As the house of the woodpecker has no windows and the old bird very nearly fills the doorway when she comes home, it is hard to find out just how she feeds her little ones. But one of our best naturalists has had the opportunity to observe it, and has told what he saw.

A flicker had built a nest in the trunk of a rather small dead tree which, after the eggs were hatched, was accidentally broken off just at the entrance hole. This left the whole cavity exposed to the weather; but it was too late to desert the nest, and impossible to remove the young birds to another nest.

When first visited, the five little birds were blind, naked, and helpless. They were motherless, too. Some one must have killed their pretty mother; for she never came to feed them, and the father was taking all the care of his little family. When disturbed the little birds hissed like snakes, as is the habit of the callow young of woodpeckers, chickadees, and other birds nesting habitually in holes in trees. When they were older and their eyes were open, they made a clatter much like the noise of a mowing-machine, and loud enough to be heard thirty yards away.

The father came at intervals of from twenty to sixty minutes to feed the little ones. He was very shy, and came so quietly that he would be first seen when he alighted close by with a low little laugh or a subdued but anxious call to the young. “Here I am again!” he laughed; or “Are you all right, children?” he called to them. “All right!” they would answer, clattering in concert like a two-horse mower.

As soon as they heard him scratching on the tree-trunk, up they would all clamber to the edge of the nest and hold out their gaping mouths to be fed. Each one was anxious to be fed first, because there never was enough to go round. There was always one that, like the little pig of the nursery tale, “got none.” When he came to the nest, the father would look around a moment, trying to choose the one he wanted to feed first. Did he always pick out the poor little one that had none the time before, I wonder?

After the old bird had made his choice, he would bend over the little bird and drive his long bill down the youngster’s throat as if to run it through him. Then the little bird would catch hold as tightly as he could and hang on while his father jerked him up and down for a second or a second and a half with great rapidity. What was he doing? He was pumping food from his own stomach into the little one’s. Many birds feed their young in this way. They do not hold the food in their own mouths, but swallow and perhaps partially digest it, so that it shall be fit for the tender little stomachs.

While the woodpecker was pumping in this manner his motions were much the same as when he drummed, but his tail twitched as rapidly as his head and his wings quivered. The motion seemed to shake his whole body.

In two weeks from the time when the little birds were blind, naked, helpless nestlings they became fully feathered and full grown, able to climb up to the top of the nest, from which they looked out with curiosity and interest. At any noise they would slip silently back. A day or two later they left the old nest and began their journeys.

No naturalist has been able to tell us whether other woodpeckers than the golden-winged flicker feed their young in this way; and little is known of the number of kinds of birds that use this method, but it is suspected that it is far more common than has ever been determined. If an old bird is seen to put her bill down a young one’s throat and keep it there even so short a time as a second, it is probable that she is feeding the little one by regurgitation, that is, by pumping up food from her own stomach. Any bird seen doing this should be carefully watched. It has long been known that the domestic pigeon does this, and the same has been observed a number of times of the ruby-throated hummingbird. A California lady has taken some remarkable photographs of the Anna’s hummingbird in the act, showing just how it is done.


Lee’s Addition:

And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. (Matthew 8:20 KJV)

This is Chapter V from The Woodpeckers book. Our writer, Fannie Hardy Eckstorm, wrote this in 1901. There are 16 chapters, plus the Forward, which are about the Woodpecker Family here in America. All the chapters can be found on The Woodpeckers page. I added photos to help enhance the article. In 1901, photography was not like today.

Woodpeckers belong to the Picidae – Woodpeckers Family.

The Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) is a medium-sized member of the woodpecker family. It is native to most of North America, parts of Central America, Cuba, the Cayman Islands, and is one of the few woodpecker species that migrate. There are over 100 common names for the Northern Flicker. Among them are: Yellowhammer, clape, gaffer woodpecker, harry-wicket, heigh-ho, wake-up, walk-up, wick-up, yarrup, and gawker bird. Many of these names are attempts at imitating some of its calls.

Check out their sounds at Northern Flicker – All About Birds

Their breeding habitat consists of forested areas across North America and as far south as Central America. They are cavity nesters who typically nest in trees but they will also use posts and birdhouses if sized and situated appropriately. They prefer to excavate their own home although they will reuse and repair damaged or abandoned nests. Abandoned Flicker nests create habitat for other cavity nesters. Flickers are sometimes driven from nesting sites by another cavity nester, European starlings.

It takes about 1 to 2 weeks to build the nest which is built by both sexes of the mating pairs. The entrance hole is roughly 5 to 10 cm (2.0 to 3.9 in) wide.

A typical clutch consists of 6 to 8 eggs whose shells are pure white with a smooth surface and high gloss. The eggs are the second largest of the North American woodpecker species, exceeded only by the Pileated Woodpecker’s. Incubation is by both sexes for approximately 11 to 12 days. The young are fed by regurgitation and fledge about 25 to 28 days after hatching. (Wikipedia)

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See:

Picidae – Woodpeckers Family

The Woodpeckers by Fannie Hardy Eckstorm

Wordless Birds

The Woodpeckers on Birds of the Bible For Kids site. (With some words modified for easier reading.)

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Other Flickers around the World:

Interesting link to a reader’s photos – Wonderful Woodpecker Family

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How The Woodpecker Makes A House – The Woodpeckers

Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) with Young ©WikiC

Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) with Young ©WikiC

IV

HOW THE WOODPECKER MAKES A HOUSE

All woodpeckers make their houses in the wood of trees, either the trunk or one of the branches. Almost the only exceptions to this rule are those that live in the treeless countries of the West. In the torrid deserts of Arizona and the Southwest, some species are obliged to build in the thorny branches of giant cacti, which there grow to an enormous size. In the treeless plains to the northward, a few individuals, for lack of anything so suitable as the cactus, dig holes in clay banks, or even lay their eggs upon the surface of the prairie. In a country where chimney swallows nest in deserted houses, and sand martins burrow in the sides of wells, who wonders at the flicker’s thinking that the side of a haystack, the hollow of a wheel-hub, or the cavity under an old ploughshare, is an ideal home? But in wooded countries the woodpeckers habitually nest in trees. The only exceptions I know are a few flickers’ holes in old posts, and a few instances where flickers[21] have pecked through the weatherboarding of a house to nest in the space between the walls.

But because a bird nests in a hole in a tree, it is not necessarily a woodpecker. The sparrow-hawk, the house sparrow, the tree swallow, the bluebird, most species of wrens, and several of the smaller species of owls nest either in natural cavities in trees or in deserted woodpeckers’ holes. The chickadees, the crested titmice, and the nuthatches dig their own holes after the same pattern as the woodpecker’s. However, the large, round holes were all made by woodpeckers, and of those under two inches in diameter, our friend Downy made his full share. It is easy to tell who made the hole, for the different birds have different styles of housekeeping. The chickadees and nuthatches always build a soft little nest of grass, leaves, and feathers, while the woodpeckers lay their eggs on a bed of chips, and carry nothing in from outside.

Soon after they have mated in the spring, the woodpeckers begin to talk of housekeeping. First, a tree must be chosen. It may be sound or partly decayed, one of a clump or solitary; but it is usually dead or hollow-hearted, and at least partly surrounded by other trees. Sometimes a limb is chosen, sometimes an upright trunk, and the nest may be from two feet to one hundred feet from the ground, though most frequently it will be found not less than ten nor more than thirty feet up. However odd the location finally occupied, it is likely that it was not the first one selected. A woodpecker will dig half a dozen houses rather than occupy an undesirable tenement. It is very common to find their unfinished holes and the wider-mouthed, shallower pockets which they dig for winter quarters; for those that spend their winters in the cold North make a hole to live in nights and cold and stormy days.

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) by Raymond Barlow

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) by Raymond Barlow

The first step in building is to strike out a circle in the bark as large as the doorway is to be; that is, from an inch and a half to three or four inches in diameter according to the size of the woodpecker. It is nearly always a perfect circle. Try, if you please, to draw freehand a circle of dots as accurate as that which the woodpecker strikes out hurriedly with his bill, and see whether it is easy to do as well as he does.

If the size and shape of the doorway suit him, the woodpecker scales off the bark inside his circle of holes and begins his hard work. He seems to take off his coat and work in his shirtsleeves, so vigorously does he labor as he clings with his stout toes, braced in position by his pointed tail. The chips fly out past him, or if they lie in the hole, he sweeps them out with his bill and pelts again at the same place. The pair take turns at the work. Who knows how long they work before resting? Do they take turns of equal length? Does one work more than the other? A pair of flickers will dig about two inches in a day, the hole being nearly two and a half inches in diameter. A week or more is consumed in digging the nest, which, among the flickers, is commonly from ten to eighteen inches deep. The hole usually runs in horizontally for a few inches and then curves down, ending in a chamber large enough to make a comfortable nest for the mother and her babies.

What a good time the little ones have in their hole! Rain and frost cannot chill them; no enemy but the red squirrel is likely to disturb them. There they lie in their warm, dark chamber, looking up at the ray of light that comes in the doorway, until at last they hear the scratching of their mother’s feet as she alights on the outside of the tree and clambers up to feed them. What a piping and calling they raise inside the hole, and how they all scramble up the walls of their chamber and thrust out their beaks to be fed, till the old tree looks as if it were blossoming with little woodpeckers’ hungry mouths!

Lee’s Addition:

Pileated Woodpecker, female at nest hole

Pileated Woodpecker, female at nest hole

The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly and are filled with sap, the cedars of Lebanon which He has planted, Where the birds make their nests; as for the stork, the fir trees are her house. (Psalms 104:16-17 AMP)

This is Chapter IV from The Woodpeckers book. Our writer, Fannie Hardy Eckstorm, wrote this in 1901. There are 16 chapters, plus the Forward, which are about the Woodpecker Family here in America. All the chapters can be found on The Woodpeckers page. I added photos to help enhance the article. In 1901, photography was not like today.

Woodpeckers belong to the Picidae – Woodpeckers Family.

If you have ever been in the woods and heard a Woodpecker or other member of their family working on their “house,” that sound helps locate them. The Pileated Woodpeckers especially sound like they are tearing the place apart. The Lord created this family to prefer having their home in the tree trunks and larger limbs. He has prepared them with beaks that can handle all the pounding they do and a cushioned forehead to protect their brains.  The video on the Woodpeckers page explains part of this.

See:

Picidae – Woodpeckers Family

The Woodpeckers by Fannie Hardy Eckstorm

Wordless Birds

The Woodpeckers on Birds of the Bible For Kids site. (With some words modified for easier reading.)

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Interesting link to a reader’s photos – Wonderful Woodpecker Family

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How The Woodpecker Courts His Mate – The Woodpeckers

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) Brevard Zoo by Dan

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) Brevard Zoo by Dan

III

HOW THE WOODPECKER COURTS HIS MATE

Other birds woo their mates with songs, but the woodpecker has no voice for singing. He cannot pour out his soul in melody and tell his love his devotion in music. How do songless birds express their emotions? Some by grotesque actions and oglings, as the horned owl, and some by frantic dances, as the sharp-tailed grouse, woo and win their mates; but the amorous woodpecker, not excepting the flickers, which also woo by gestures, whacks a piece of seasoned timber, and rattles off interminable messages according to the signal code set down for woodpeckers’ love affairs. He is the only instrumental performer among the birds; for the ruffed grouse, though he drums, has no drum.

There is no cheerier spring sound, in our belated Northern season, than the quick, melodious rappings of the sapsucker from some dead ash limb high above the meadow. It is the best performance of its kind: he knows the capabilities of his instrument, and gets out of it all the music there is in it. Most if not all woodpeckers drum occasionally, but drumming is the special accomplishment of the sapsucker. He is easily first. In Maine, where they are abundant, they make the woods in springtime resound with their continual rapping.

Early in April, before the trees are green with leaf, or the willows have lost their silky plumpness, when the early round-leafed yellow violet is cuddling among the brown, dead leaves, I hear the yellow-bellied sapsucker along the borders of the trout stream that winds down between the mountains. The dead branch of an elm-tree is his favorite perch, and there, elevated high above all the lower growth, he sits rolling forth a flood of sound like the tremolo of a great organ. Now he plays staccato,—detached, clear notes; and now, accelerating his time, he dashes through a few bars of impetuous hammerings. The woods re-echo with it; the mountains give it faintly back. Beneath him the ruffed grouse paces back and forth on his favorite mossy log before he raises the palpitating whirr of his drumming. A chickadee digging in a rotten limb pauses to spit out a mouthful of punky wood and the brown Vanessa, edged with yellow, first butterfly of the season, flutters by on rustling wings. So spring arrives in Maine, ushered in by the reveille of the sapsucker.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) ©WikiC

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) ©WikiC

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Drumming

So ambitious is the sapsucker of the excellence of his performance that no instrument but the best will satisfy him. He is always experimenting, and will change his anvil for another as soon as he discovers one of superior resonance. They say he tries the tin pails of the maple-sugar makers to see if these will not give him a clearer note; that he drums on tin roofs and waterspouts till he loosens the solder and they come tumbling down. But usually he finds nothing so near his liking as a hard-wood branch, dead and barkless, the drier, the harder, the thinner, the finer grained, so much the better for his uses.

Deficient as they are in voice, the woodpeckers do not lack a musical ear. Mr. Burroughs tells us that a downy woodpecker of his acquaintance used to change his key by tapping on a knot an inch or two from his usual drumming place, thereby obtaining a higher note. Alternating between the two places, he gave to his music the charm of greater variety. The woodpeckers very quickly discover the superior conductivity of metals. In parts of the country where woodpeckers are more abundant than good drumming trees, a tin roof proves an almost irresistible attraction. A lightning-rod will sometimes draw them farther than it would an electric bolt; and a telegraph pole, with its tinkling glasses and ringing wires, gives them great satisfaction. If men did not put their singing poles in such public places, their music would be much more popular with the woodpeckers; but even now the birds often venture on the dangerous pastime and hammer you out a concord of sweet sounds from the mellow wood-notes, the clear peal of the glass, and the ringing overtones of the wires.

Northern Flicker cropped by Lee at S. Lk Howard Ntr Pk

Northern Flicker by Lee (cropped)

Northern Flicker calling and drumming

The flicker often telegraphs his love by tapping either on a forest tree or on some loose board of a barn or outhouse; but he has other ways of courting his lady. On fine spring mornings, late in April, I have seen them on a horizontal bough, the lady sitting quietly while her lover tried to win her approval by strange antics. Quite often there are two males displaying their charms in open rivalry, but once I saw them when the field was clear.

If fine clothes made a gentleman, this brave wooer would have been first in all the land: for his golden wings and tail showed their glittering under side as he spread them; his scarlet headdress glowed like fire; his rump was radiantly white, not to speak of the jetty black of his other ornaments and the beautiful ground-colors of his body. He danced before his lady, showing her all these beauties, and perhaps boasting a little of his own good looks, though she was no less beautiful. He spread his wings and tail for her inspection; he bowed, to show his red crescent; he bridled, he stepped forward and back and sidewise with deep bows to his mistress, coaxing her with the mellowest and most enticing co-wee-tucks, which no doubt in his language meant “Oh, promise me,” laughing now and then his jovial wick-a-wick-a-wick-a-wick-a, either in glee or nervousness. It was all so very silly—and so very nice! I wonder how it all came out. Did she promise him? Or did she find a livelier suitor?


Lee’s Addition:

Pileated Woodpecker by Lee at Circle B

Pileated Woodpecker by Lee at Circle B

And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” (Genesis 1:22 ESV)

This is Chapter III from The Woodpeckers book. Our writer, Fannie Hardy Eckstorm, wrote this in 1901. There are 16 chapters, plus the Forward, which are about the Woodpecker Family here in America. All the chapters can be found on The Woodpeckers page. I added photos to help enhance the article. In 1901, photography was not like today.

Woodpeckers belong to the Picidae – Woodpeckers Family.

Members of Picidae are typically monogamous. A pair will work together to help build the nest, incubate the eggs and raise their altricial young. However, in most species the male does most of the nest excavation and takes the night shift while incubating the eggs. A nest will usually consist of 2–5 round white eggs. Since these birds are cavity nesters, their eggs do not need to be camouflaged and the white color helps the parents to see them in dim light. The eggs are incubated for about 11–14 days before the chicks are born. It takes about 18–30 days before the young are ready to leave the nest. (Wikipedia with editing)

See:

Picidae – Woodpeckers Family

The Woodpeckers by Fannie Hardy Eckstorm

Gospel Message

The Woodpeckers on Birds of the Bible For Kids site. (With some words modified for easier reading.)

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How the Woodpecker Catches A Grub – The Woodpeckers

Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) by Daves BirdingPix

Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) by Daves BirdingPix

Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they? (Matthew 6:26 AMP)


Chapter II

HOW THE WOODPECKER CATCHES A GRUB

Did you ever see a hairy woodpecker strolling about a tree for what he could pick up?

There is a whur-r-rp of gay black and white wings and the flash of a scarlet topknot as, with a sharp cry, he dashes past you, strikes the limb solidly with both feet, and instantly sidles behind it, from which safe retreat he keeps a sharp black eye fixed upon your motions. If you make friends with him by keeping quiet, he will presently forgive you for being there and hop to your side of the limb, pursuing his ordinary work in the usual way, turning his head from side to side, inspecting every crevice, and picking up whatever looks appetizing. Any knot or little seam in the bark is twice scanned; in such places moths and beetles lay their eggs. Little cocoons are always dainty morsels, and large cocoons contain a feast. The butterfly-hunter who is hoping to hatch out some fine cecropia moths knows well that a large proportion of all the cocoons he discovers will be empty. The hairy woodpecker has been there before him, and has torn the chrysalis out of its silken cradle. For this the farmer should thank him heartily, even if the butterfly-hunter does not, for the cecropia caterpillar is destructive.

But sometimes, on the fair bark of a smooth limb, the woodpecker stops, listens, taps, and begins to drill. He works with haste and energy, laying open a deep hole. For what? An apple-tree borer was there cutting out the life of the tree. The farmer could see no sign of him; neither could the woodpecker, but he could hear the strong grub down in his little chamber gnawing to make it longer, or, frightened by the heavy footsteps on his roof, scrambling out of the way.

Boring larva.
Boring larva

It is easy to hear the borer at work in the tree. When a pine forest has been burned and the trees are dead but still standing, there will be such a crunching and grinding of borers eating the dead wood that it can be heard on all sides many yards away. Even a single borer can sometimes be heard distinctly by putting the ear to the tree. Sound travels much farther through solids than it does through air; notice how much farther you can hear a railroad train by the click of the rails than by the noise that comes on the air. Even our dull ears can detect the wood worm, but we cannot locate him. How, then, is the woodpecker to do what we cannot do?

Doubtless experience teaches him much, but one observer suggests that the woodpecker places the grub by the sense of touch. He says he has seen the red-headed woodpecker drop his wings till they trailed along the branch, as if to determine where the vibrations in the wood were strongest, and thus to decide where the grub was boring. But no one else appears to have noticed that woodpeckers are in the habit of trailing their wings as they drill for grubs. It would be a capital study for one to attempt to discover whether the woodpecker locates his grub by feeling, or whether he does it by hearing alone. Only one should be sure he is looking for grubs and not for beetles’ eggs, nor for ants, nor for caterpillars. By the energy with which he drills, and the size of the hole left after he has found his tidbit, one can decide whether he was working for a borer.

But when the borer has been located, he has yet to be captured. There are many kinds of borers. Some channel a groove just beneath the bark and are easily taken; but others tunnel deep into the wood. I measured such a hole the other day, and found it was more than eight inches long and larger than a lead-pencil, bored through solid rock-maple wood. The woodpecker must sink a hole at right angles to this channel and draw the big grub out through his small, rough-sided hole. You would be surprised, if you tried to do the same with a pair of nippers the size of the woodpecker’s bill, to find how strong the borer is, how he can buckle and twist, how he braces himself against the walls of his house. Were your strength no greater than the woodpecker’s, the task would be much harder. Indeed, a large grub would stand a good chance of getting away but for one thing, the woodpecker spears him, and thereby saves many a dinner for himself.

Indian spear.
Indian spear

Here is a primitive Indian fish-spear, such as the Penobscots used. To the end of a long pole two wooden jaws are tied loosely enough to spring apart a little under pressure, and midway between them, firmly driven into the end of the pole, is a point of iron. When a fish was struck, the jaws sprung apart under the force of the blow, guiding the iron through the body of the fish, which was held securely in the hollow above, that just fitted around his sides, and by the point itself.

Solomon Islander's spear.
Solomon Islander’s Spear

The tool with which the woodpecker fishes for a grub is very much the same. His mandibles correspond to the two movable jaws. They are knife-edged, and the lower fits exactly inside the upper, so that they give a very firm grip. In addition, the upper one is movable. All birds can move the upper mandible, because it is hinged to the skull. (Watch a parrot some day, if you do not believe it.) A medium-sized woodpecker, like the Lewis’s, can elevate his upper mandible at least a quarter of an inch without opening his mouth at all. This enables him to draw his prey through a smaller hole than would be needed if he must open his jaws along their whole length. Between the mandibles is the sharp-pointed tongue, which can be thrust entirely through a grub, holding him impaled. Unlike the Indian’s spear-point, the woodpecker’s tongue is barbed heavily on both sides, and it is extensile. As a tool it resembles the Solomon Islander’s spear. A medium-sized woodpecker can dart his tongue out two inches or more beyond the tip of his bill. A New Bedford boy might tell us, and very correctly, that the woodpecker harpoons his grub, just as a whaleman harpoons a whale. If the grub tries to back off into his burrow, out darts the long, barbed tongue and spears him. Then it drags him along the crooked tunnel and into the narrow shaft picked by the woodpecker, where the strong jaws seize and hold him firmly.


Lee’s Addition:

Lewis's Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis) With Bug In Its Beak ©WikiC

Lewis’s Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis) With Bug In Its Beak ©WikiC

I know and am acquainted with all the birds of the mountains, and the wild animals of the field are Mine and are with Me, in My mind. (Psalms 50:11 AMP)

This is Chapter II from The Woodpeckers book. Our writer, Fannie Hardy Eckstorm, wrote this in 1901. There are 16 chapters, plus the Forward, which are about the Woodpecker Family here in America. All the chapters can be found on The Woodpeckers page. I added photos to help enhance the article. In 1901, photography was not like today.

Woodpeckers belong to the Picidae – Woodpeckers Family.

The diet of woodpeckers consists mainly of insects and their grubs taken from living and dead trees, and other arthropods, along with fruit, nuts and sap from live trees. Ecologically, they help to keep trees healthy by keeping them from suffering mass infestations. The family is noted for its ability to acquire wood-boring grubs using their bills for hammering, but overall the family is characterized by its dietary flexibility, with many species being both highly omnivorous and opportunistic. The insect prey most commonly taken are those found inside tree trunks, whether they are alive or rotten, and in crevices in the bark. These include beetles and their grubs, ants, termites, spiders, and caterpillars. These may be obtained either by gleaning or, more famously, by excavating wood. Having hammered a hole into the wood, the prey is excavated by a long barbed tongue.

The ability to excavate allows woodpeckers to obtain tree sap, an important source of food for some species. Most famously, the sapsuckers (genus Sphyrapicus) feed in this fashion, but the technique is not restricted to these and others, such as the Acorn Woodpecker and White-headed Woodpecker, also feed in this way. It was once thought that the technique was restricted to the New World, but Old World species, such as the Arabian Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker, also feed in this way. (Wikipedia)

The tongue is mentioned on a video on The Woodpeckers page. This video will be referred to again and will be on The Woodpeckers page. It is being introduced here.

See:

Picidae – Woodpeckers Family

The Woodpeckers by Fannie Hardy Eckstorm

Gideon

The Woodpeckers on Birds of the Bible For Kids site. (With some words modified for easier reading.)

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Woodpeckers – Appendix – Explanation of Terms

The Woodpeckers, by Fannie Hardy Eckstorm – Updated

The Woodpeckers

The Woodpeckers by Fannie Hardy Eckstorm – Cover


APPENDIX

Explanation of Terms.

Head of a Flicker.
Head of a Flicker.

*

Occipital means “on the occiput.”

a. Forehead; b. crown; c. occiput; d. nape; e. chin; f. throat; g. jaw-patch, or mustache.

Nuchal means “on the nape.”

Primaries are the nine or ten wing-quills borne upon the last joint of the wing.

Secondaries are the wing-quills attached to the fore-arm bones.

Tertiaries are the wing-quills springing from the upper arm bones.

Wing coverts are the shorter lines of feathers overlapping these long quills.

Tail coverts are the lengthened feathers that overlap the root of the tail both above and below, called respectively upper and under tail coverts.

Ear coverts are the feathers that over-lie the ear, often specially modified or colored.

Rump, the space between the middle of the back and the root of the tail.

is the sign used to indicate the male sex.

is the sign used to indicate the female sex.

Wing Coverts ©WikiC

Wing Coverts ©WikiC – (Click on photo to see it better)

A subspecies is a geographical race, modified in size, color, or proportions chiefly by the influence of climate. These variations are especially marked in non-migratory birds of wide distribution, subject, therefore, to climatic extremes. The Downy and the Hairy Woodpeckers, for example, are split up into numerous races. It should be remembered that when a species has been separated into races, or subspecies, all the subspecies are of equal rank, even though they are differently designated. The one originally discovered and first described bears the old Latin name which consisted of two words, while the new ones are designated by triple Latin names—the old binomial and a new name in addition. The binomial indicates the form first described. The forms designated by trinomials may be equally well known, abundant, and widely distributed. For example, among the woodpeckers, the northern form of the Hairy Woodpecker was first discovered and bears the name Dryobates villosus; but the first Downy Woodpecker described was a southern bird, and the northern form was not separated until a few years ago, so that the southern bird is the type, and the northern one bears the trinomial, Dryobates pubescens medianus.

North America, by the decision of the American Ornithologists’ Union, is held to include the continent north of the present boundary between Mexico and the United States, with Greenland, the peninsula of Lower California, and the islands adjacent naturally belonging to the same.


Lee’s Addition:

Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) by Daves BirdingPix

Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) by Daves BirdingPix

And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen. (John 21:25 NKJV)

Picidae – Woodpeckers Family

The Woodpeckers by Fannie Hardy Eckstorm

Gideon

How To Know A Woodpecker – The Woodpeckers

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) ©USFWS

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) ©USFWS

 


Chapter I

HOW TO KNOW A WOODPECKER

The woodpecker is the easiest of all birds to recognize. Even if entirely new to you, you may readily decide whether a bird is a woodpecker or not.

The woodpecker is always striking and is often gay in color. He is usually noisy, and his note is clear and characteristic. His shape and habits are peculiar, so that whenever you see a bird clinging to the side of a tree “as if he had been thrown at it and stuck,” you may safely call him a woodpecker. Not that all birds which cling to the bark of trees are woodpeckers,—for the chickadees, the crested titmice, the nuthatches, the brown creepers, and a few others like the kinglets and some wrens and wood-warblers more or less habitually climb up and down the tree-trunks; but these do it with a pretty grace wholly unlike the woodpecker’s awkward, cling-fast way of holding on. As the largest of these is smaller than the smallest woodpecker, and as none of them (excepting only the tiny kinglets) ever shows the patch of yellow or scarlet which always marks the head of the male woodpecker, and which sometimes adorns his mate, there is no danger of making mistakes.

Blue Nuthatch (Sitta azurea) by Ian

Blue Nuthatch (Sitta azurea) by Ian

The nuthatches are the only birds likely to be confused with woodpeckers, and these have the peculiar habit of traveling down a tree-trunk with their heads pointing to the ground. A woodpecker never does this; he may move down the trunk of the tree he is working on, but he will do it by hopping backward. A still surer sign of the woodpecker is the way he sits upon his tail, using it to brace him. No other birds except the chimney swift and the little brown creeper ever do this. A sure mark, also, is his feet, which have two toes turned forward and two turned backward. We find this arrangement in no other North American birds except the cuckoos and our one native parroquet. However, there is one small group of woodpeckers which have but three toes, and these are the only North American land-birds that do not have four well-developed toes.

Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) by Reinier Munguia

Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) by Reinier Munguia

In coloration the woodpeckers show a strong family likeness. Except in some young birds, the color is always brilliant and often is gaudy. Usually it shows much clear black and white, with dashes of scarlet or yellow about the head. Sometimes the colors are “solid,” as in the red-headed woodpecker; sometimes they lie in close bars, as in the red-bellied species; sometimes in spots and stripes, as in the downy and hairy; but there is always a contrast, never any blending of hues. The red or yellow is laid on in well-defined patches—square, oblong, or crescentic—upon the crown, the nape, the jaws, or the throat; or else in stripes or streaks down the sides of the head and neck, as in the logcock, or pileated woodpecker.

Pileated Woodpecker by Lee

Pileated Woodpecker by Lee

There is no rule about the color markings of the sexes, as in some families of birds. Usually the female lacks all the bright markings of the male; sometimes, as in the logcock, she has them but in more restricted areas; sometimes, as in the flickers, she has all but one of the male’s color patches; and in a few species, as the red-headed and Lewis’s woodpeckers, the two sexes are precisely alike in color. In the black-breasted woodpecker, sometimes called Williamson’s sapsucker, the male and female are so totally different that they were long described and named as different birds. It sometimes happens that a young female will show the color marks of the male, but will retain them only the first year.

Williamson's Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus thyroideus) by Judd Patterson

Williamson’s Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus thyroideus) by Judd Patterson

Though the woodpeckers cling to the trunks of trees, they are not exclusively climbing birds. Some kinds, like the flickers, are quite as frequently found on the ground, wading in the grass like meadowlarks. Often we may frighten them from the tangled vines of the frost grape and the branches of wild cherry trees, or from clumps of poison-ivy, whither they come to eat the fruit. The red-headed woodpecker is fond of sitting on fence posts and telegraph poles; and both he and the flicker frequently alight on the roofs of barns and houses and go pecking and pattering over the shingles. The sapsuckers and several other kinds will perch on dead limbs, like a flycatcher, on the watch for insects; the flickers, and more rarely other kinds, will sit crosswise of a limb instead of crouching lengthwise of it, as is the custom with woodpeckers.

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) Red-shafted ©WikiC

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) Red-shafted ©WikiC

All these points you will soon learn. You will become familiar with the form, the flight, and the calls of the different woodpeckers; you will learn not only to know them by name, but to understand their characters; they will become your acquaintances, and later on your friends.

This heavy bird, with straight, chisel bill and sharp-pointed tail-feathers; with his short legs and wide, flapping wings, his unmusical but not disagreeable voice, and his heavy, undulating, business-like flight, is distinctly bourgeois, the type of a bird devoted to business and enjoying it. No other bird has so much work to do all the year round, and none performs his task with more energy and sense. The woodpecker makes no aristocratic pretensions, puts on none of the coy graces and affectations of the professional singer; even his gay clothes fit him less jauntily than they would another bird. He is artisan to the backbone,—a plain, hard-working, useful citizen, spending his life in hammering holes in anything that appears to need a hole in it. Yet he is neither morose nor unsocial. There is a vein of humor in him, a large reserve of mirth and jollity. We see little of it except in the spring, and then for a time all the laughter in him bubbles up; he becomes uproarious in his glee, and the melody which he cannot vent in song he works out in the channels of his trade, filling the woodland with loud and harmonious rappings. Above all other birds he is the friend of man, and deserves to have the freedom of the fields.


Lee’s Addition:

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) by J Fenton

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) by J Fenton

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: (Colossians 1:16 KJV)

This is Chapter I from The Woodpeckers book. Our writer, Fannie Hardy Eckstorm, wrote this in 1901. There are 16 chapters, plus the Forward, which are about the Woodpecker Family here in America. All the chapters can be found on The Woodpeckers page. I added photos to help enhance the article. In 1901, photography was not like today.

Woodpeckers belong to the Picidae – Woodpeckers Family.

“Most species possess predominantly white, black, brown, green, and red plumage, although many piculets show a certain amount of grey and olive green. In woodpeckers, many species exhibit patches of red and yellow on their heads and bellies, and these bright areas are important in signaling. The dark areas of plumage are often iridescent. Although the sexes of Picidae species tend to look alike, many woodpecker species have more prominent red or yellow head markings in males than in females.”

“Members of the family Picidae have strong bills for drilling and drumming on trees and long sticky tongues for extracting food. Woodpecker bills are typically longer, sharper and stronger than the bills of piculets and wrynecks; however their morphology is very similar. The bill’s chisel-like tip is kept sharp by the pecking action in birds that regularly use it on wood. Species of woodpecker and flicker that use their bills in soil or for probing as opposed to regular hammering tend to have longer and more decurved bills. Due to their smaller bill size, many piculets and wrynecks will forage in decaying wood more often than woodpeckers. The long sticky tongues, which possess bristles, aid these birds in grabbing and extracting insects deep within a hole of a tree. It had been reported that the tongue was used to spear grubs, but more detailed studies published in 2004 have shown that the tongue instead wraps around the prey before being pulled out.”

“Woodpeckers, piculets and wrynecks all possess zygodactyl feet. Zygodactyl feet consist of four toes, the first (hallux) and the fourth facing backward and the second and third facing forward. This foot arrangement is good for grasping the limbs and trunks of trees. Members of this family can walk vertically up a tree trunk, which is beneficial for activities such as foraging for food or nest excavation. In addition to the strong claws and feet, woodpeckers have short strong legs. This is typical of birds that regularly forage on trunks. The tails of all woodpeckers except the piculets and wrynecks are stiffened, and when the bird perches on vertical surfaces, the tail and feet work together to support it.” (Wikipedia)

See:

Picidae – Woodpeckers Family

The Woodpeckers by Fannie Hardy Eckstorm

Falling Plates

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Riddlers – The Woodpeckers

The Woodpeckers

The Woodpeckers by Fannie Hardy Eckstorm – Cover

The Woodpeckers, by Fannie Hardy Eckstorm

A Project Gutenberg EBook

*

THE WOODPECKERS

BY

FANNIE HARDY ECKSTORM

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS

BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
The Riverside Press, Cambridge
1901

Title: The Woodpeckers

Author: Fannie Hardy Eckstorm

Release Date: January 25, 2011 [EBook #35062]

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE WOODPECKERS ***

(This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net)

COPYRIGHT, 1900, BY FANNIE HARDY ECKSTORM

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

To

MY FATHER
MR. MANLY HARDY
A Lifelong Naturalist


THE WOODPECKERS


FOREWORD: THE RIDDLERS


_
Long ago in Greece, the legend runs, a terrible monster called the Sphinx used to waylay travelers to ask them riddles: whoever could not answer these she killed, but the man who did answer them killed her and made an end of her riddling.

To-day there is no Sphinx to fear, yet the world is full of unguessed riddles. No thoughtful man can go far afield but some bird or flower or stone bars his way with a question demanding an answer; and though many men have been diligently spelling out the answers for many years, and we for the most part must study the answers they have proved, and must reply in their words, yet those shrewd old riddlers, the birds and flowers and bees, are always ready for a new victim, putting their heads together over some new enigma (mystery) to bar the road to knowledge till that, too, shall be answered; so that other men’s learning does not always suffice. So much of a man’s pleasure in life, so much of his power, depends on his ability to silence these persistent questioners, that this little book was written with the hope of making clearer the kind of questions Nature asks, and the way to get correct answers.

This is purposely a little book, dealing only with a single group of birds, treating particularly only some of the commoner species of that group, taking up only a few of the problems that present themselves to the naturalist for solution, and aiming rather to make the reader acquainted with the birds than learned about them.

The woodpeckers were selected in preference to any other family because they are patient under observation, easily identified, resident in all parts of the country both in summer and in winter, and because more than any other birds they leave behind them records of their work which may be studied after the birds have flown.

The book provides ample means for identifying every species and subspecies of woodpecker known in North America, though only five of the commonest and most interesting species have been selected for special study. At least three of these five should be found in almost every part of the country. The Californian woodpecker is never seen in the East, nor the red-headed in the far West, but the downy and the hairy are resident nearly everywhere, and some species of the flickers and sapsuckers, if not always the ones chosen for special notice, are visitors in most localities.

Look for the woodpeckers in orchards and along the edges of thickets, among tangles of wild grapes and in patches of low, wild berries, upon which they often feed, among dead trees and in the track of forest fires. Wherever there are boring larvæ, beetles, ants, grasshoppers, the fruit of poison-ivy, dogwood, june-berry, wild cherry or wild grapes, woodpeckers may be confidently looked for if there are any in the neighborhood.

Be patient, persistent, wide-awake, sure that you see what you think you see, careful to remember what you have seen, studious to compare your observations, and keen to hear the questions propounded you. If you do this seven years and a day, you will earn the name of Naturalist; and if you travel the road of the naturalist with curious patience, you may some day become as famous a riddle-reader as was that OEdipus, the king of Thebes, who slew the Sphinx.


Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) by Raymond Barlow

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) by Raymond Barlow

Lee’s Addition:

This is the beginning of a series from The Woodpeckers book. Our writer, Fannie Hardy Eckstorm, wrote this in 1901. There are 16 chapters, plus this Forward, which are about the Woodpecker Family here in America. All the chapters can be found on The Woodpeckers page.

Woodpeckers belong to the Picidae – Woodpeckers Family.

Here are the upcoming chapter titles:

CHAP. PAGE
 Foreword: the Riddlers  
I.  How to know a Woodpecker  
II.  How the Woodpecker catches a Grub  
III.  How the Woodpecker courts his Mate  
IV.  How the Woodpecker makes a House  
V.  How a Flicker feeds her Young  
VI.  Friend Downy  
VII.  Persona non Grata. (Yellow-bellied Sapsucker)  
VIII.  El Carpintero. (Californian Woodpecker)  
IX.  A Red-headed Cousin. (Red-headed Woodpecker)  
X.  A Study of Acquired Habits  
XI.  The Woodpecker’s Tools: His Bill  
XII.  The Woodpecker’s Tools: His Foot  
XIII.  The Woodpecker’s Tools: His Tail  
XIV.  The Woodpecker’s Tools: His Tongue  
XV.  How each Woodpecker is fitted for his own Kind of Life  
XVI.  The Argument from Design  

I trust you will enjoy reading about these fantastic birds and how the Lord has created them to be able to carry out their task.

See:

The Woodpeckers by Fannie Hardy Eckstorm

Wordless Birds

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