Avian And Attributes – Kind

Avian And Attributes – Kind

Kaempfer’s Woodpecker (Celeus obrieni) ©WikiC


Avian and Attributes – KIND

“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” (Luke 6:35 KJV)

KIND, a.

1. Disposed to do good to others, and to make them happy by granting their requests, supplying their wants or assisting them in distress; having tenderness or goodness of nature; benevolent; benignant.
God is kind to the unthankful, and to the evil. Luke 6:35
Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted. Eph 4:32

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32 KJV)

2. Proceeding from tenderness or goodness of heart; benevolent; as a kind act; a kind return of favors.


aempfer_s Woodpecker (Celeus obrieni) ©Flickr Claudlo Dlas Timm

Kaempfer’s Woodpecker

The Kaempfer’s Woodpecker (Celeus obrieni), also known as Piauí woodpecker, is a species of woodpecker from Brazil.

It has a total length of about 24 centimeters (9½ in). The head and remiges are mainly rufous-chestnut, the underparts and back are buff, the wing-coverts are barred in black and buff and the chest and tail are uniform black. The male has a red malar and mottling on its crest. For comparison, the rufous-headed woodpecker is larger and has extensive black barring on the back and underparts.

Little is known about its habitat preference, but it appears to be associated with bamboo (specifically Guadua paniculata) growing in Cerrado and babassu palm forest; very unlike the humid forest and woodland where the related rufous-headed woodpecker is found. There is no evidence to suggest that it occurs in Caatinga. Rather, the authors who proposed the common name Caatinga woodpecker and association it with the caatinga habitat mistook a place in the caatinga called Uruçuí-Una for the type locality Uruçuí, some 180 km. NNW in cerrado habitat. (Wikipedia) (Picidae – Woodpecker Family)


More Avian and Attributes

Birds whose first name starts with “K”

Good News

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[Definitions from Webster’s Dictionary of American English (1828), unless noted. Bird info from Wikipedia plus.]

Want a Home in the Mountains? Some Birds Have One!

Want a Home in the Mountains?   Some Northern Flickers Have One!

James J. S. Johnson

I know all the fowls [i.e., birds] of the mountains; and the wild beasts of the field are Mine.    Psalm 50:11

Mountains are wonderful places to see God’s handiwork, including the many birds dwelling in (and around) mountains year-round or seasonally.  Some of my best bird-watching has been done in mountains, usually the Rocky Mountains or Appalachians. (This birding report notes the Rocky Mountains’ Northern Flicker.)

SANGRE2©WikiC

Of specific mountain ranges, one of my all-time favorite mountain ranges is the Sangre de Cristo Range, northern part of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (themselves a range within the Rocky Mountains) that runs north-to-south in southern Colorado, spilling into northern New Mexico.  Within that range my favorite mountain is Horn Peak, near Horn Creek Christian Family Camp (where Dr. Stan Toussaint occasionally taught the Scriptures) and Sangre de Cristo Seminary, not far outside of Westcliffe, Colorado.  The elevation there ranges about 8500 feet, with Horn Peak peaking at about 14,000 feet!

Sangre de Cristo Range Looking West ©WikiC

Sangre de Cristo Range Looking West ©WikiC

“Sangre de Cristo” is Spanish for “blood of Christ”, perhaps an indication that the range was named when its snow-capped mountains were reflecting a scarlet-hued sunset.  In any case, it’s magnificently beautiful out there.

Sangre de Christo Mountains, Winter Sunset ©WikiC

Sangre de Christo Mountains, Winter Sunset ©WikiC

Much of Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Range is located within two of America’s national forests:  San Isabel National Forest (containing the range’s northeastern portion), and the Rio Grande National Forest (containing most of the southwestern portion, i.e., the San Luis Valley).   Amazingly, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains border a very unusual inland sand dunes area (the largest in North America), the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.   By the way, where did all that sand come from?  (Hint: check out Genesis chapters 6-9.)

Dunes great sand ©WikiC

Great Sand Dunes ©WikiC

In the montane forests on the slope of Horn Peak (and Little Horn Peak) there is a Protestant Reformation-based seminary named “Sangre de Cristo Seminary”, founded by Dr. Dwight F. Zeller.  (FYI: its website is http://sdcs76.org/  — which includes a music-enhanced PowerPoint slide show on its homepage.)

If you drive up to the entrance of the seminary campus, especially in the summer, roll down your car’s windows – and listen.  Actually, park your car and find a “blind” where you can observe the trees around you – if you stay still for a while you are likely to see the varied bird life of those montane evergreen forests.  One bird that you may hear before you see it, the Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus), because a stone’s throw from the seminary’s mountain road entrance, which is thick with evergreen trees, is (or at least “was” – in the late AD1990s) a tree that served as the home of a Northern Flicker family.  Many summer days, during the mid-to-late AD1990s, I have found a comfortable place to sit, there – hidden — so that I could observe that Northern Flicker tree-home, without being observed by the Northern Flickers that continually went in and out, in and out, therefrom.

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

Northern Flicker cropped by Lee

Flickers routinely convert a tree into a tree-house!

Orni-Theology with Luzan Bleeding-heart by Dan

Orni-Theology

Says ornithologist Mary Taylor Gray, in her book WATCHABLE BIRDS OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS (Mountain Press Publishing, 1992), at pages 30, “Flickers nest in holes in trees, fenceposts, telephone poles and the like, excavating the nest hole by pecking.  They are important homebuilders for other cavity-nesting birds who, with bills too weak to make their own holes, use those abandoned by woodpeckers.  Both the male and the female flicker incubate the eggs and care for the young [hatchlings].  When the adults bring food to the nest, they light on the tree, then disappear into the nest cavity.  As the babies get older, they learn to expect the parents, poking their heads out of the nest and squawking to be fed.”  That description of Northern Flicker behavior (with illustrative photographs on page 31), by Mary Taylor Gray, perfectly fits what I have observed (and what my wife observed), summer after summer, at Sangre de Cristo Seminary’s campus.

But what were those woodpeckers eating?

Bugs of all kinds strive in the Sangre de Cristo montane forests, crawling on the ground and in trees and bushes – the bugs are very active there during the summer – and that’s fine for flickers!  Says ornithologist Stan Tekiela, in his book  BIRDS OF COLORADO FIELD GUIDE (Adventure Publications, 2001), on page 147, “The flicker is the only woodpecker to regularly feed on the ground, preferring ants and beetles.  Produces antacid saliva [without the need for Nexium!] to neutralize the acidic defense of ants.”  (Although such a diet would bug me, the flickers seem to enjoy it.)

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) red-shafted F-left M-right ©WikiC

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) red-shafted F-left M-right ©WikiC

The two main varieties are the “red-shafted” and “yellow-shafted” forms, though hybridized  versions occur where the ranges overlap, in the western edge of the great plains (where the prairies merge into the Rocky Mountains), and this Northern Flicker looked like such a hybrid.  After my wife and I watched it go into its tree-hole, again and again, we suddenly learned why that tree-hole was the scene of such repeated in-and-out activity:  cautiously baby flickers poked their little heads out, perhaps curious about the outside world, or maybe in hopes that the next airborne meal was soon headed home!

Northern Flicker (Female Yellow-shafted) ©WikiC

Northern Flicker (Female Yellow-shafted) ©WikiC

In recalling those cool summer days, when I watched for birds in the montane forests by Sangre de Cristo Seminary – sometimes with my wife, sometimes alone – I realized that all around me the hungry were being fed.  Baby flickers were being fed by their woodpecker parents.  But also seminary students, instructed by godly teachers, were being fed the Word of God (Deuteronomy 8:3, quoted in Matthew 4:4 & Luke 4:4.)

So, good eating can mean physical food (like bugs for hungry flickers!), or it can mean spiritual food (like the Holy Bible, for hungry Christians).  Bon appetite!

Northern Flicker feeding baby ©WikiC

Northern Flicker feeding baby ©WikiC


Lee’s Addition:

Thanks, James for a very interesting article to share with us. Love those Flickers.

More articles:

Orni-Theology

James J. S. Johnson

Picidae – Woodpeckers

Northern Flicker – All About Birds

Northern Flicker – Wikipedia

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Pileated Woodpeckers With a Chipmunk, One Singing, and One Eating

Pileated Woodpecker by Lee

Pileated Woodpecker by Lee

‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You. (Jeremiah 32:17 NKJV)

I always enjoy seeing Pileated Woodpeckers like this one at Circle B Bar Reserve here in the area. This was taken several years ago.

I found these videos on YouTube and they show the Pileated in a different way than we have observed them. Enjoy!

The first one is a YouTube by Dan & Joe. He discovers a chipmunk:

He has made the earth by His power; He has established the world by His wisdom, And stretched out the heaven by His understanding. (Jeremiah 51:15 NKJV)

Here’s another video of a Pileated Woodpecker Singing by Pureimaginationvideo:

This last one has a very good close-up of a Pileated digging for Grubs by Martyn Stewart:

But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, And the nations will not be able to endure His indignation. Thus you shall say to them: “The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens.” He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, And has stretched out the heavens at His discretion. (Jeremiah 10:10-12 NKJV)

I have been reading through Jeremiah and these verse caught my attention.

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Birds of the World

Picidae – Woodpeckers Family

Who Paints the Leaves?

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Zoo Miami’s Greater Yellownape

Greater Yellownape (Chrysophlegma flavinucha) female Zoo Miami by Lee

Greater Yellownape (Chrysophlegma flavinucha) female Zoo Miami by Lee

For they will be a graceful ornament on your head, And chains about your neck. (Proverbs 1:9 NKJV)

Here is one of my favorites at Zoo Miami’s Wings of Asia Aviary. They have 87 species and they are all my favorites, but this one is further up the scale. This is a Greater Yellownape (Chrysophlegma flavinucha) female and believe it is the only Yellownape there at present.

Dan and I went back down to Zoo Miami this week and spent two days just in the Aviary. When we were there earlier this year, most of my photos did not come out well. After some adjustments to my Panasonic Lumix FZ47 point-n-shoot (which I shoot in “program mode”), things didn’t do much better at first the first day. More adjustments and these came out better. Tuesday night in the motel, Dan made some more fixes. Yesterday, I finally got some really nice photos which I will share later.

Greater Yellownape (Chrysophlegma flavinucha) female Zoo Miami by Dan

Greater Yellownape (Chrysophlegma flavinucha) female Zoo Miami by Dan

My son, keep your father’s command, And do not forsake the law of your mother. Bind them continually upon your heart; Tie them around your neck. (Proverbs 6:20-21 NKJV)

For those of you into photography, the problem is that the Aviary is well landscaped with lots of trees and is covered with its wire mesh. My ISO and lens speed were to low to compensate for the environment. My camera normally does well when I am “outdoors” and not in an aviary. (As for ISOs and F-stops, I don’t know much them. I would rather study about the birds and let Dan worry about the camera.)

Back to our Yellownape. This is another neat creation from its Creator. They belong to the Woodpecker – Picidae Family. At the aviary, they call it the Greater Yellow Naped Woodpecker.

List of birds at Wings of Asia - Greater Yellow Nape

List of birds at Wings of Asia – Greater Yellownape

From a copy of their list, you can tell it is a female and the only one. The list has the number of males first, then number of females and then the third number is unknown sex. Every day they check on the birds and try to find each one. If after 3 days a bird isn’t spotted, then a real search begins. By following the counters around, who were very friendly and willing to help with names of birds, many of the birds come out and into view. Could it be because the counters have food with them? In fact some of the birds make themself right at home on the cart.

Counters with friends

Counters with friends

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Counters with friends making themselves at home

Counters with friends making themselves at home

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Counters with friends making themselves at home

Counters with friends making themselves at home

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Actually the Yellownape came in close the second day, but I failed to get her photo, but Dan captured her in the second photo as she was eating worms from the hole in the tree. The worker had just placed some worms there to bring the birds in closer so they could be counted.

The Greater Yellownape is a large, olive-green woodpecker with prominent yellow-crested nape and throat. Dark olive-green with grey underparts. Crown brownish and flight feathers chestnut barred with black. Bill often looks whitish. “Nape” is the back or base of the neck area. See Birdwatching Term – Nape

It is found in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, and Vietnam. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical moist montane forests. (Wikipedia)

Included in the photos below is a photo of a male from Wikipedia. Notice his line on his chin is more yellow than the female. Here is more of a rusty color.

Here are the photos of the Greater Yellownape (Chrysophlegma flavinucha).

“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. …It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’ ” (Luke 15:20, 32 NKJV)

See:

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A Red-headed Cousin (Red-headed Woodpecker)

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) ©USFWS

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) ©USFWS

IX

A RED-HEADED COUSIN

Besides his half-brothers, the narrow-fronted and ant-eating woodpeckers, the Carpenter has a numerous family of cousins,—the red-headed, the red-bellied, the golden-fronted, the Gila, and the Lewis’s woodpeckers. These all belong to one genus, and are much alike in structure, though totally different in color. Most of them are Western or Southwestern birds, but one is found in nearly all parts of the United States lying between the Hudson River and the Rocky Mountains, and is the most abundant woodpecker of the middle West. This well-known cousin is the red-headed woodpecker, the tricolored beauty that sits on fence-posts and telegraph poles, and sallies out, a blaze of white, steel-blue, and scarlet, a gorgeous spectacle, whenever an insect flits by. He is the one that raps so merrily on your tin roofs when he feels musical.

So named from being found along the Gila River.

In many ways the red-head, as he is familiarly called, is like his carpenter cousin. Both indulge in long-continued drumming; both catch flies expertly on the wing; and both have the curious habit of laying up stores of food for future use. The Californian woodpecker not only stores acorns, but insect food as well. But though the Carpenter’s habits have long been known, it is a comparatively short time since the red-head was first detected laying up winter supplies.

The first to report this habit of the red-head was a gentleman in South Dakota, who one spring noticed that they were eating young grasshoppers. At that season he supposed that all the insects of the year previous would be dead or torpid, and certainly full-grown, while those of the coming summer would be still in the egg. Where could the bird find half-grown grasshoppers? Being interested to explain this, he watched the red-heads until he saw that one went frequently to a post, and appeared to get something out of a crevice in its side. In that post he found nearly a hundred grasshoppers, still alive, but wedged in so tightly they could not escape. He also found other hiding-places all full of grasshoppers, and discovered that the woodpeckers lived upon these stores nearly all winter.

But it is not grasshoppers only that the red-head hoards, though he is very fond of them. In some parts of the country it is easier to find nuts than to find grasshoppers, and they are much less perishable food. The red-head is very fond of both acorns and beechnuts. Probably he eats chestnuts also. Who knows how many kinds of nuts the red-head eats? You might easily determine not only what he will eat, but what he prefers, if a red-headed woodpecker lives near you. Lay out different kinds of nuts on different days, putting them on a shed roof, or in some place where squirrels and blue jays would not be likely to dare to steal them, and see whether he takes all the kinds you offer. Then lay out mixed nuts and notice which ones he carries off first. If he takes all of one kind before he takes any of the others, we may be sure that he has discovered his favorite nut. Such little experiments furnish just the information which scientific men are glad to get.

Red-headed Cousin

It is well known that the red-head is very fond of beechnuts. Every other year we expect a full crop of nuts, and close observation shows that the red-heads come to the North in much larger numbers and stay much later on these years of plenty than on the years of scanty crops. Lately it has been discovered that they not only eat beechnuts all the fall, but store them up for winter use. This time the observation was made in Indiana. There, when the nuts were abundant, the red-heads were seen busily carrying them off. Their accumulations were found in all sorts of places: cavities in old tree-trunks contained nuts by the handful; knot-holes, cracks, crevices, seams in the barns were filled full of nuts. Nuts were tucked into the cracks in fence-posts; they were driven into railroad ties; they were pounded in between the shingles on the roofs; if a board was sprung out, the space behind it was filled with nuts, and bark or wood was often brought to cover over the gathered store. No doubt children often found these hiding-places and ate the nuts, thinking they were robbing some squirrel’s hoard.

In the South, where the beech-tree is replaced by the oak, the red-heads eat acorns. I should like to know whether they store acorns as they do beechnuts. Are chestnuts ever laid up for winter? How far south is the habit kept up? Is it observed beyond the limits of a regular and considerable snowfall? That is, do the birds lay up their nuts in order to keep them out of the snow, or for some other reason?

It remains to be discovered if other woodpeckers have hoarding-places. We know that the sapsucker eats beechnuts, and the downy and the hairy woodpeckers also; that the red-bellied woodpecker and the golden-winged flicker eat acorns; and I have seen the downy woodpecker eating chestnuts, or the grubs in them, hanging head downward at the very tip of the branches like a chickadee. It may be possible that some of these lay up winter stores.

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This is Chapter XI 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.


Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) ©Bing

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) ©Bing

Lee’s Addition:

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18 KJV)

He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? (Matthew 16:2-3 KJV)

The Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus), which belongs to the Picidae – Woodpeckers Family, is a small or medium-sized woodpecker from temperate North America. Their breeding habitat is open country across southern Canada and the eastern-central United States.

The Red-headed Woodpecker was one of the many species originally described by Linnaeus in his 18th-century work Systema Naturae. The specific epithet is derived from the Ancient Greek words erythros ‘red’ and kephalos ‘head’.

Adults are strikingly tri-colored, with a black back and tail and a red head and neck. Their underparts are mainly white. The wings are black with white secondary remiges. Adult males and females are identical in plumage. Juveniles have very similar markings, but have an all grey head.

These birds fly to catch insects in the air or on the ground, forage on trees or gather and store nuts. They are omnivorous, eating insects, seeds, fruits, berries, nuts, and occasionally even the eggs of other birds. About two-thirds of their diet is made up of plants. They nest in a cavity in a dead tree, utility pole, or a dead part of a tree. They lay 4 to 7 eggs in early May which are incubated for two weeks. Two broods can be raised in a single nesting season. (Wikipedia with editing)

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Interesting Bird Facts about the Red-headed Woodpecker

  • It has the greatest G-force (acceleration due to gravity): beak of red-headed woodpecker hitting bark at 20.9 km/h (13 mph). (Internet)
  • The Red-headed Woodpecker has many nicknames, including half-a-shirt, shirt-tail bird, jellycoat, flag bird, and the flying checker-board. (All About Birds)

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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 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

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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

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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.

The Woodpeckers - Boring Lava

Boring Lava

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.

Woodpeckers - Indian Spear

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

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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 by Fannie Hardy Eckstorm - coverThe Woodpeckers, by Fannie Hardy Eckstorm

A Project Gutenberg EBook

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THE WOODPECKERS

BY

FANNIE HARDY ECKSTORM

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS

The Woodpeckers by Fannie Hardy Eckstorm

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]

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COPYRIGHT, 1900, BY FANNIE HARDY ECKSTORM

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

To

MY FATHER
MR. MANLY HARDY
A Lifelong Naturalist


THE WOODPECKERS


FOREWORD: THE RIDDLERS


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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  

APPENDIX

A. Key to the Woodpeckers of North America

B. Descriptions of the Woodpeckers of North America

C. Explanation of Terms

*

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

*

Vol. 2, No. 4 – The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker of Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker of Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897

THE YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER.

When the veins of the birch overflow in the spring,

Then I sharpen my bill and make the woods ring,

Till forth gushes—rewarding my tap, tap, tap!

The food of us Suckers—the rich, juicy sap.

—C. C. M.

imgm

ANY wild birds run up and down trees, and it seems to make little difference which end up they are temporarily, skirmishing ever to the right and left, whacking the bark with their bills, then quiet a brief moment, and again skirmishing around the tree. Sometimes an apple tree, says a recent writer, will have a perfect circle, not seldom several rings or holes round the tree—holes as large as a buck shot. The little skirmisher makes these holes, and the farmer calls it a Sapsucker. And such it is. Dr. Coues, however, says it is not a bird, handsome as it is, that you would care to have come in great numbers to your garden or orchard, for he eats the sap that leaks out through the holes he makes in the trees. When a great many holes have been bored near together, the bark loosens and peels off, so that the tree is likely to die. The Sapsucker also eats the soft inner bark which is between the rough outside bark and the hard heart-wood of the tree, which is very harmful. Nevertheless the bird does much good in destroying insects which gather to feed on the oozing sap. It sweeps them up in its tongue, which is not barbed, like that of other woodpeckers, but has a little brush on the end of it. It lacks the long, extensile tongue which enables the other species to probe the winding galleries of wood-eating larvæ.

Mr. William Brewster states that throughout the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and in most sections of Northern Maine, the Yellow-Bellied Woodpeckers outnumber all the other species in the summer season. Their favorite nesting sites are large dead birches, and a decided preference is manifested for the vicinity of water, though some nests occur in the interior of woods. The average height of the nesting hole from the ground is about forty feet. Many of the nests are gourd-like in shape, with the ends very smoothly and evenly chiseled, the average depth being about fourteen inches. The labors of excavating the nest and those of rearing the young are shared by both sexes. While this Sapsucker is a winter resident in most portions of Illinois, and may breed sparingly in the extreme northern portion, no record of it has been found.

A walk in one of our extensive parks is nearly always rewarded by the sight of one or more of these interesting and attractive birds. They are usually so industriously engaged that they seem to give little attention to your presence, and hunt away, tapping the bole of the tree, until called elsewhere by some more promising field of operations. Before taking flight from one tree to another, they stop the insect search and gaze inquisitively toward their destination. If two of them meet, there is often a sudden stopping in the air, a twisting upward and downward, followed by a lively chase across the open to the top of a dead tree, and then a sly peeping round or over a limb, after the manner of all Woodpeckers. A rapid drumming with the bill on the tree, branch or trunk, it is said, serves for a love-song, and it has a screaming call note.

**

My Dear Young Friends:

During the long summer days, when you were enjoying golden vacation hours, I often took a peep at you from some dead tree limb or the side of a hemlock or beech. You saw me, perhaps, and were surprised at my courage; for other small birds whose voices you heard, but whose tiny bodies escaped your young eyes, appeared very timid in comparison.

But I am not so brave, after all, and know full well when my red hat is in danger. I am a good flyer, too, and can soon put a wide space between myself and certain wicked boys, who, I hope, by next vacation time will have learned so much about us that they will love every little feathered creature, and not seek to do them any harm.

Can you guess why I have such a queer name? I really ought to be popular in Illinois, for they tell me it is called the Sucker State, and that the people are proud of it. Well, I am called Sapsucker because much, if not most, of my food consists of the secret juices which flow through the entire body of the tree which you probably saw me running up and down and around. But you saw me, you say, very often on dead branches of trees, and surely they had no sap in them? No, but if you will look closely into my actions, you will see that I destroy many insects which drill their way into the wood and deposit their eggs. In my opinion, I do far more good than harm, though you will find some people who think otherwise.

Then, again, if there is utility in beauty, surely I am a benefit to every one. One day I heard a lady say that she never saw my head pop up from behind an old stump without bursting into laughter, I looked so funny. Now I took that as a compliment; for to give pleasure to those around us, I have heard, is one of our highest duties.

Next summer when you seek the pleasant places where I dwell,—in the old deadening where the trees wear girdles around them; in the open groves, where I flit from tree to tree; in the deep wooded districts, whence one hears the tinkling ripple of running waters, you may, if good and gentle, see pop up behind a stump the red hat of Sapsucker.

Summary:

SAPSUCKER, YELLOW-BELLIED.Sphyrapicus varius.

Range—Eastern North America; breeds from Massachusetts northward, and winters from Virginia to Central America.

Nest—About forty feet from the ground.

Eggs—Five to seven.


Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Daves BirdingPix

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) by Daves BirdingPix

Lee’s Addition:

The trees of the LORD are full of sap, The cedars of Lebanon which He planted, Where the birds make their nests; The stork has her home in the fir trees. (Psalms 104:16-17 NKJV)

This article is from Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897. We have been revisiting the birds and giving more current information about them.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is one of 232 species in the Picidae – Woodpeckers Family. The yellow-bellied sapsucker is a mid-sized woodpecker, measuring 7.1–8.7 in (18–22 cm) in length, 13–16 in (34–40 cm) in wingspan and weighing from 1.4–2.2 oz (40–63 g).  Adults are black on the back and wings with white bars; they have a black head with white lines down the side and a red forehead and crown, a yellow breast and upper belly, a white lower belly and rump and a black tail with a white central bar. Adult males have a red throat; females have a white throat.

They drum and give a cat-like call in spring to declare ownership of territory.

The red-naped sapsucker is distinguished by having a red nape (back of the head). The hairy woodpecker has no red on the crown (front of the head) or throat and has blacker back. The downy woodpecker has same markings as the hairy woodpecker but is significantly smaller.

Like other sapsuckers, these birds drill holes in trees and eat the sap and insects drawn to it. They may also pick insects from tree trunks or catch them in flight. They also eat fruit and berries.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) Holes in tree ©WikiC

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) Holes in tree ©WikiC

Because yellow-bellied sapsuckers feed on up to two hundred fifty species of living trees and woody plants, they are sometimes considered to be a pest. The birds can cause serious damage to trees, and intensive feeding has been documented as a source of tree mortality. Sapsucker feeding can kill a tree by girdling, which occurs when a ring of bark around the trunk is severely injured. Certain tree species are particularly susceptible to dying after being damaged by yellow-bellied sapsuckers. (Wikipedia with editing)

*

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited The above article is an article in the monthly serial for October 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited * (Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The Warbling Vireo

The Previous Article – Shore Lark  

Wordless Birds

Links:

* Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited The above article is an article in the monthly serial for October 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg. To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited *