By Design: Woodpeckers

“I feel like I’m beating my head against the wall.” Obviously, that’s an expression we use to describe a pointless pursuit that accomplishes nothing but pain. However, it is an action that a woodpecker does on purpose… and apparently by design!

“God’s plan for the world stands up, all his designs are made to last.” Psalm 33:12, The Message

Silhouette of a Pileated Woodpecker at dawn. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. May 4, 2020. ©

I always marvel as I watch woodpeckers hammer away… chunks of bark and wood flying everywhere. I could only imagine how much my brain would be rattled if I were to try it myself. With all the concerns about concussions in high school and college athletes, it is clearly something humans weren’t designed to do.

But that is not true of the woodpeckers. The ability to hammer on hard objects with the front of their face is undoubtedly designed by a Creator. In Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation, Dennis Peterson writes, “The woodpecker is totally different from other birds. Every part of his body is especially fitted for drilling into wood.”

Red-headed Woodpecker; Greene County, Georgia birding, June 13, 2020. ©

The woodpecker’s beak alone is designed for the job. It is harder than that of other birds, and the base of the bill is fitted with a shock-absorbing tissue not found in some other species. To go along with a beak designed for drilling, the woodpecker has a specialized tongue. Fashioned to fit into those freshly drilled holes, the woodpecker’s tongue is four times longer than the beak and wraps around the back of the bird’s skull! The tail, legs and claws are also specialized designs to help the woodpecker hold in place during his jack-hammer feeding sessions. And a keen sense of smell helps the woodpecker determine the precise drilling point to maximize the chance of excavating an insect.

All these wonderfully engineered traits could only come about by design. Partially evolved traits in a primitive ancestor would only result in broken beaks and a lot of headaches! These features are obviously designed to the woodpecker’s advantage and keep it from pointlessly beating his head against the wall!

Hi, I’m wildlife photographer and nature writer William Wise. I was saved under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology at the University of Georgia. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. I’m currently an animal shelter director and live in Athens, Georgia with my wife and two teenage daughters, who are all also actively involved in ministry. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation.  — “What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.” Psalms 104, The Message.

Woodpeckers in the Waterman Bird Collection

BJU Bird Collection 2018-Display Case 3 – Woodpeckers and Shorebirds

“If a bird’s nest happens to be before you along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, with the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young;” (Deuteronomy 22:6 NKJV)

The next Display case of the Waterman Bird Collection contains Woodpeckers from the Picidae family and some shorebirds from the Scolopacidae Family. [Next post]

BJU Bird Collection 2018
– Woodpeckers

This post is about the five Woodpeckers; Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), Black-backed Three-toed Woodpecker [now the Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus)], Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) and a Common Flicker [now the Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus).

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) 

BJU Bird Collection 2018 Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)  “The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the biggest, most striking forest birds on the continent. It’s nearly the size of a crow, black with bold white stripes down the neck and a flaming-red crest. Look (and listen) for Pileated Woodpeckers whacking at dead trees and fallen logs in search of their main prey, carpenter ants, leaving unique rectangular holes in the wood. The nest holes these birds make offer crucial shelter to many species including swifts, owls, ducks, bats, and pine martens.”

Pileated Woodpecker by Lee at Circle B

Pileated Woodpecker by Lee at Circle B

Cool Facts – “The Pileated Woodpecker digs characteristically rectangular holes in trees to find ants. These excavations can be so broad and deep that they can cause small trees to break in half.” [Pileated Woodpecker – All About Birds]

American Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis)

BJU Bird Collection 2018 BJU Bird Collection Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus)

American Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis) – “Found in boreal forests and montane coniferous forests across North America. Because of its choice of habitat, it is infrequently seen by most people.” “The “Three-toed Woodpecker” was split in 2003 into the American Three-toed and Eurasian Three-toed woodpeckers. The two species are nearly identical in appearance, but differ in mitochondrial DNA sequences and in voice.”

American Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis) by Daves BirdingPix

American Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis) by Daves BirdingPix

Cool Fact “Most woodpeckers have four toes on each foot. The three-toed and Black-backed woodpeckers have only three. The loss of the fourth toe may help deliver stronger blows, but at the expense of climbing ability.” [American Three-toed_Woodpecker – All About Birds]

Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) Male – Waterman Bird Collection BJU

Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) – “The active little Downy Woodpecker is a familiar sight at backyard feeders and in parks and woodlots, where it joins flocks of chickadees and nuthatches, barely outsizing them. An often acrobatic forager, this black-and-white woodpecker is at home on tiny branches or balancing on slender plant galls, sycamore seed balls, and suet feeders. Downies and their larger lookalike, the Hairy Woodpecker, are one of the first identification challenges that beginning bird watchers master.”

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) Brevard Zoo by Dan

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) Brevard Zoo by Dan

Cool Facts – “In winter Downy Woodpeckers are frequent members of mixed species flocks. Advantages of flocking include having to spend less time watching out for predators and better luck finding food from having other birds around.” [Downy Woodpecker – All About Birds]

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

BJU Bird Collection 2018 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) – “On a walk through the forest you might spot rows of shallow holes in tree bark. In the East, this is the work of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, an enterprising woodpecker that laps up the leaking sap and any trapped insects with its specialized, brush-tipped tongue. Attired sharply in barred black-and-white, with a red cap and (in males) throat, they sit still on tree trunks for long intervals while feeding. To find one, listen for their loud mewing calls or stuttered drumming.”

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) by Daves BirdingPix

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) by Daves BirdingPix

Cool Facts – “Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers have been found drilling sapwells in more than 1,000 species of trees and woody plants, though they have a strong preference for birches and maples.”[Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – All About Birds]

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

BJU Bird Collection 2018 Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) – “Northern Flickers are large, brown woodpeckers with a gentle expression and handsome black-scalloped plumage. On walks, don’t be surprised if you scare one up from the ground. It’s not where you’d expect to find a woodpecker, but flickers eat mainly ants and beetles, digging for them with their unusual, slightly curved bill. When they fly you’ll see a flash of color in the wings – yellow if you’re in the East, red if you’re in the West – and a bright white flash on the rump.”

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

Northern Flicker cropped by Lee at S. Lake Howard Nature Pk

Cool Fact – “Although it can climb up the trunks of trees and hammer on wood like other woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker prefers to find food on the ground. Ants are its main food, and the flicker digs in the dirt to find them. It uses its long barbed tongue to lap up the ants.” [Northern Flicker – All About Birds]


Picidae family


Some of the Previous Woodpecker Posts:

Wordless Woodpecker – Yellow-Fronted


“F” is for Finches and Flamebacks: “F” Birds”, Part 2

F” is for Finches and Flamebacks: “F” Birds”, Part  2

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Finches and Flamebacks are the focus of this fast “fly-over” birdwatching review. Finches are familiar passerines to many Americans, but what are “Flamebacks”?  Flamebacks are a category of woodpeckers, also known as “Goldenbacks”, due to fiery-gold plumage on their backs.  Think of the Flamebacks as woodpeckers who “wear” their “fiery gold on their backs, as opposed to Christians, whose faith is put through fiery trials in order to produce character valuable as refined gold.


GREATER FLAMEBACK   (Titus John photograph)

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. (1st  Peter 1:7)

I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.  (Revelation 3:18)

As noted in the prior study of this ongoing alphabet-based series (“‘F’ is for Flamingos and Frigatebirds), “F” is for Flamingo, Falcon, Frigatebird, Frogmouth, Fairywren, Flufftail, Fantail, Figbird, Fulvetta, Flatbill, Flycatcher, Flowerpecker, Firetail, Flameback, Flicker, Fieldwren, Foliage-gleaner, Fruitcrow, Fruiteater, Forktail, Francolin, Friarbird, Fody, and/or Finch — plus whatever other birds there are, that have names that begin with the letter F. This current study will ignore Flamingos and Frigatebirds, since they were previously reported, as noted above. Likewise, previous studies (posted on have looked at aspects of the password-teaching Superb Fairywrens (“Teach Your Children the Right Passwords!”); versatile Peregrine Falcons (“Northern Raven and Peregrine Falcon”); resourceful Vermilion Flycatchers (“Vermilion Flycatchers”); and a Colorado-dwelling Northern Flicker (“Want a Home in The Mountains?”).

So this study will briefly review some finches and some flame-backs.


CRIMSON FINCH breeding pair, Australia  (Wikipedia)

The Amazon-dwelling Saffron Finch has already been reviewed, by Lee Dusing . Also, the Australia-dwelling Crimson Finch has already by featured, as studied by Ian Montgomery. Likewise, the birdfeeder-visiting American Goldfinch has been considered by Lee Dusing. Moreover, ornithologist Lee Dusing has reviewed multifarious categories of finches (as they are generically defined by avian taxonomists), on various occasions (including, e.g.: Sunday Inspiration – Finches I; Finches II; Finches III; Finches IV and Sunday Inspiration – Inca, Warbling and Various Finches; etc.).

So this study will now look at 2 reddish finches that frequent the State of Texas: the Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus) and the House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus). The former finch is famous for having been described by Roger Tory Peterson as a “sparrow dipped in raspberry juice” [Quoting Roger Tory Peterson, A FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF TEXAS AND ADJACENT STATES (PETERSON FIELD GUIDES, (Houghton Mifflin, 1988), page 243.]  Thereafter, a category of woodpeckers, called “Flamebacks”, will be considered.

For starters, consider the ubiquitous House Finch.


HOUSE FINCH male (Glenn Bartley photo)

HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus, f/k/a Carpodacus mexicanus)

The House Finch is a widespread as any American finch, being a year-round resident in all of the contiguous “lower 48” states. This nationwide range is relatively new in America’s eastern half, as the House Finch was previously reported as a Western range resident.  [See Roger Tory Peterson, EASTERN BIRDS A COMPLETELY NEW GUIDE TO ALL THE BIRDS OF EASTERN AND CENTRAL NORTH AMERICA), 4th edition (Houghton Mifflin/ PETERSON FIELD GUIDES, 1980), page 270 & Map 356.]

Consequently, Easterners who are accustomed to viewing Purple Finches (discussed below) need to look more carefully, because the two are similar enough to be mistaken one for another.

There is another “cousin” who adds to the identity confusion – the Cassin’s Finch (Haemorhous cassinii, f/k/a Carpodacus cassinii), which habituates only America’s West.


CASSIN’S FINCH   (Birdwatchers Digest photograph)

The three finches, together, are grouped as the “Haemorhous Finches”, i.e., the trio of small reddish-on-brownish finches.  [TAXONOMIC CAVEAT:  Although I don’t know of genetic/hybridization studies on Haemorhous finches (yet they recently they became grouped together as a “clade” separate from the Carpodacus “rosefinches”), I won’t be surprised to learn that these American Haemorhous finches can (and do) interbreed, i.e., hybridize; if so, this would prove that they descend from related pairs of Ark-borne ancestors, and ultimately descend from an original created “kind” pair created by God on Day #5 of Creation Week.]

This recent addition to our eastern avifauna [i.e., the House Finch] is often mistaken for the Purple Finch, with which it may associate at the feeding tray. It [i.e., the House Finch] is smaller; male brighter red.  Note the dark stripes on the sides and belly.  The striped brown female [House Finch] is distinguished from the female Purple Finch by its smaller bill and bland face pattern (no heavy mustache or dark cheek patch).  . . . Range: W. U.S. to s. Mexico.  Introduced in ne. U.S. about 1940; spreading.


In other words, when distinguishing a male House Finch from a male Purple Finch, notice that House Finch males has more prominent brownish streaking on the sides of their bellies, whereas the Purple Finch males have less or none.  Also, the reddish color of the Purple Finch really is tinted a bit more purplish, i.e., its red is more of a crimson-fading-into-pink, whereas the House Finch male has more of a scarlet-to-vermilion hue, depending on available lighting.

Thus, nowadays, if you see a finch with a crimson-reddish top and front, that blends into a brownish underside and wings, it is likely a House Finch (as opposed to a Cassin’s Finch or a Purple Finch).  For another view of how the House Finch is less crimson in plumage than the Purple Finch, see the House Finch photograph (by Ian) featured in Lee Dusing’s “Sunday Inspiration – Finches III” (3-20-AD2016).

Ornithologist Fred J. Alsop III describes the House Finch as follows:

Originally confined to the West [as earlier bird-book range maps indicate], this finch was called a Linnet and introduced as a cage bird on Long Island, New York, in the 1940s.  It became abundant in the East, [supposedly there] surpassing the House Sparrow [a/k/a English Sparrow, a passerine introduced form Britain to America many generations ago].  Today, it is among the most widely distributed songbird species in North America.  It often feeds with the Purple Finch, especially in winter.  Some male variants are orange or yellow instead of red.  Juveniles resemble adult females [which are Earth-tone brown in plumage].   . . .  Solitary or in pairs during nesting season.  Gregarious.  Forms small family groups when young become independent.  Larger foraging flocks in winter may join with other finches.  Actively forages on the ground, in fields, and in suburban areas.  Eats mostly seeds but in summer takes insects and fruits.  Drinks maple sap.  Males are conspicuous and sing often.  Studies indicate that the redder the male’s plumage, the more desirable he is to females.  . . .  Abundant over much of North America in a wide variety of habitats, from arid scrub, wooded canyons, cultivated fields, and open woodlands to suburban yards and urban areas.

[Quoting Fred J. Alsop III, BIRDS OF TEXAS (DK Publishing/Smithsonian Handbooks, 2002), page 536.]


HOUSE FINCH range map  (credit: Audubon Field Guide)

The House Finch is resourceful when building a nest.  It may construct a nest using “[t]wigs, grass, leaves, rootlets, bits of debris, and feathers … in tree hollows, cactus, on ground, under eaves of building[s], in bird boxes, abandoned nests, shrub[s], tree[s], etc.”  [Again quoting Alsop, BIRDS OF TEXAS, page 536.]

Now for a look at the Purple Finch, the Haemorhous finch that formerly dominated America’s Eastern seaboard.

PURPLE FINCH male  (credit: Missouri Dep’t of Conservation)

PURPLE FINCH (Haemorhous purpureus, f/k/a Carpodacus purpureus)

Ornithologist Fred J. Alsop III describes the Purple Finch as follows:

The male [Purple Finch] is easy to identify [sicthis confidence clashes with the conclusion of others, especially now that the ranges of Purple Finch and House Finch overlap as they do] …by its raspberry-colored plumage, brightest on the head, rump, and chest. Foraging in winter flocks, these birds depend on feeders when food supplies are scarce.  Juveniles are similar to adult females [which are brownish with no crimson plumage]; both have two white wing bars.  . . .  Eats seeds, some fruits, insects, and caterpillars in summer.

[Quoting Fred J. Alsop III, BIRDS OF TEXAS (DK Publishing/Smithsonian Handbooks, 2002), page 534.]  The Purple Finch has nesting habits similar to those of the House Finch (q.v., above).  Unlike the ubiquitous year-round range of the House Finch, the range of the Purple Finch is largely migratory.  (See below.)


PURPLE FINCH range map (credit: Audubon Field Guide)

Pity the Purple Finch – some criticize its name, by stating the embarrassingly obvious: it’s not really “purple” in plumage, it’s more like raspberry red!  The Audubon Field Guide observes:

This species is common in the North and East, and along the Pacific seaboard, but it is very rare in much of the Rocky Mountains region. Purple Finches feed up in trees and on the ground in open woods. They readily come to bird feeders; but they have become less numerous as feeder visitors in the Northeast, where competition with introduced House Sparrows [which appear overpopulate common ranges by double] and then House Finches may have driven them back into the woods.

[Quoting .]

Having met two of America’s Haemorhous finches, and noting how their range habits contrast, a brief introduction to Flameback woodpeckers follows — specifically, 3 large woodpeckers from the tropics of southern Asia, including the White-naped Flameback (Chrysocolaptes festivus), the Common Flameback (Dinopium javaneense), and the Crimson-backed Flameback (Chrysocolaptes stricklandi).


Crimson-backed Flameback, Sri Lanka endemic    (Pinterest)

FLAMEBACKS (a/k/a “Goldenbacks”, although some plumage “flames” are red!)

Although the plumage coloration is obviously different, the overall form (and crests) of South Asian “flameback” woodpeckers may remind birdwatchers of America’s crow-sized, forest-dwelling Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) or the (perhaps-extinct) Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis), and/or of Mexico’s somewhat-similar Imperial Woodpecker (Campephilus imperialis) or Pale-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus guatemalensis).


CRIMSON-BACKED FLAMEBACK   (Saminda De Silva photograph)

CRIMSON-BACKED FLAMEBACK (Chrysocolaptes stricklandii)

This flameback is seen in Sri Lanka, the island (formerly known as Ceylon) off the south-central coast of India. Some deem it as a color-variant “subspecies” of (i.e., due to its crimson back-feather plumage, a variety distinguishable from) the Greater Flameback (Chrysocolaptes guttacristatus – see below), a similar woodpecker (with gold-dominated back feathers) found in India, and elsewhere on parts of the Indian subcontinent, southern China, Indonesia, and Malaysia.



WHITE-NAPED FLAMEBACK (Chrysocolaptes festivusi)

This insect-snatching woodpecker is seen in parts of the Indian subcontinent (India and Nepal), as well as in Sri Lanka. Unless some other mega-sized woodpeckers, its population dynamics are stable.   Although the more colorful male has a red crown, the female’s crown is yellow.  (Sexual dimorphism is a good thing, especially to birders who want to know what they are viewing!)


COMMON FLAMEBACK   (Mike Birder / Malaysian Birding Blog)

COMMON  FLAMEBACK (Dinopium javaneense)

The Common Flameback (a/k/a “Common Goldenback”) has a range that includes Indochina, Malaysia, Indonesia, and India’s southwestern coastline. Notice the male’s crest is red; the female’s is black.  This woodpecker prefers forest living – as do woodpeckers in general (i.e., they like woods, where they can peck wood!).  This flameback frequents deciduous woodlands, parks, gardens, farmlands, mangrove swamps, and scrublands, as well as higher-elevation pine forests.  Invertebrates (e.g., including larvae) are favored fare for famished flamebacks!


COMMON FLAMEBACK female   (Wikipedia Commons)

God willing, the next contribution to this alphabetic series will be about some “G” birds – perhaps the Green Jay, Gila Woodpecker, Gilded Flicker, Glossy Ibis, Golden Eagle, Gyrfalcon, Griffon Vulture, Granada Dove, Golden Pheasant, Golden-crowned Emerald, Golden-headed Quetzal, Golden Fruit Dove, Grand Cayman Thrush, Grey Jay, or Grey Heron, — and/or maybe a couple from the varieties of Geese, Grebes, Grouses, Gallinules, Goldfinches, Gnatcatchers, Goldeneyes, Goshawks, Godwits, Guillemots, Guineafowls, Grosbeaks, Grackles, Grassbirds, Grasswrens, Gulls, and/or Go-away-birds!  Meanwhile,  enjoy the fiery faith-trials that produce golden character!      ><> JJSJ

Lee’s Two Word Tuesday – 3/14/17


Green Woodpecker with Weasel On Its Back ©Martin Le-May



“For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me.” (Psalms 38:4 KJV)

Green Woodpecker with Weasel On Its Back ©Martin Le-May


More Daily Devotionals


Woodpecker With A Weasel On It’s Back

Green Woodpecker with Weasel On It's Back ©Martin Le-May

Green Woodpecker with Weasel On It’s Back ©Martin Le-May

You have to see this:

Amateur photographer Martin Le-May, from Essex, has recorded the extraordinary image of a weasel riding on the back of a green woodpecker as it flies through the air.


Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” (Luke 19:2-5 NKJV)

Maybe the Weasel, like Zacchaeus, thought Jesus was going to come by and he wanted to get a better look.
Picadae – Woodpeckers

Wordless Birds


Drummers and Carpenters – Chapter 11

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) Brevard Zoo by Dan

Is it a Downy or Hairy Woodpecker? Brevard Zoo by Dan

Drummers and Carpenters

The Downy, Hairy and Red-headed Woodpeckers.

The Burgess Bird Book For Children


Listen to the story read.

CHAPTER 11. Drummers and Carpenters.

Peter Rabbit was so full of questions that he hardly knew which one to ask first. But Yellow Wing the Flicker didn’t give him a chance to ask any. From the edge of the Green forest there came a clear, loud call of, “Pe-ok! Pe-ok! Pe-ok!”

“Excuse me, Peter, there’s Mrs. Yellow Wing calling me,” exclaimed Yellow Wing, and away he went. Peter noticed that as he flew he went up and down. It seemed very much as if he bounded through the air just as Peter bounds over the ground. “I would know him by the way he flies just as far as I could see him,” thought Peter, as he started for home in the dear Old Briar-patch. “Somehow he doesn’t seem like a Woodpecker because he is on the ground so much. I must ask Jenny Wren about him.”

It was two or three days before Peter had a chance for a bit of gossip with Jenny Wren. When he did the first thing he asked was if Yellow Wing is a true Woodpecker.

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

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

“Certainly he is,” replied Jenny Wren. “Of course he is. Why under the sun should you think he isn’t?”

“Because it seems to me he is on the ground more than he’s in the trees,” retorted Peter. “I don’t know any other Woodpeckers who come down on the ground at all.”

“Tut, tut, tut, tut!” scolded Jenny. “Think a minute, Peter! Think a minute! Haven’t you ever seen Redhead on the ground?”

Peter blinked his eyes. “Ye-e-s,” he said slowly. “Come to think of it, I have. I’ve seen him picking up beechnuts in the fall. The Woodpeckers are a funny family. I don’t understand them.”

Just then a long, rolling rat-a-tat-tat rang out just over their heads. “There’s another one of them,” chuckled Jenny. “That’s Downy, the smallest of the whole family. He certainly makes an awful racket for such a little fellow. He is a splendid drummer and he’s just as good a carpenter. He made the very house I am occupying now.”

Peter was sitting with his head tipped back trying to see Downy. At first he couldn’t make him out. Then he caught a little movement on top of a dead limb. It was Downy’s head flying back and forth as he beat his long roll. He was dressed all in black and white. On the back of his head was a little scarlet patch. He was making a tremendous racket for such a little chap, only a little bigger than one of the Sparrow family.

“Is he making a hole for a nest up there?” asked Peter eagerly.

“Gracious, Peter, what a question! What a perfectly silly question!” exclaimed Jenny Wren scornfully. “Do give us birds credit for a little common sense. If he were cutting a hole for a nest, everybody within hearing would know just where to look for it. Downy has too much sense in that little head of his to do such a silly thing as that. When he cuts a hole for a nest he doesn’t make any more noise than is absolutely necessary. You don’t see any chips flying, do you?”

“No-o,” replied Peter slowly. “Now you speak of it, I don’t. Is—is he hunting for worms in the wood?”

Jenny laughed right out. “Hardly, Peter, hardly,” said she. “He’s just drumming, that’s all. That hollow limb makes the best kind of a drum and Downy is making the most of it. Just listen to that! There isn’t a better drummer anywhere.”

But Peter wasn’t satisfied. Finally he ventured another question. “What’s he doing it for?”

“Good land, Peter!” cried Jenny. “What do you run and jump for in the spring? What is Mr. Wren singing for over there? Downy is drumming for precisely the same reason—happiness. He can’t run and jump and he can’t sing, but he can drum. By the way, do you know that Downy is one of the most useful birds in the Old Orchard?”

Just then Downy flew away, but hardly had he disappeared when another drummer took his place. At first Peter thought Downy had returned until he noticed that the newcomer was just a bit bigger than Downy. Jenny Wren’s sharp eyes spied him at once.

“Hello!” she exclaimed. “There’s Hairy. Did you ever see two cousins look more alike? If it were not that Hairy is bigger than Downy it would be hard work to tell them apart. Do you see any other difference, Peter?”

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) by Raymond Barlow

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) by Raymond Barlow

Peter stared and blinked and stared again, then slowly shook his head. “No,” he confessed, “I don’t.”

“That shows you haven’t learned to use your eyes, Peter,” said Jenny rather sharply. “Look at the outside feathers of his tail; they are all white. Downy’s outside tail feathers have little bars of black. Hairy is just as good a carpenter as is Downy, but for that matter I don’t know of a member of the Woodpecker family who isn’t a good carpenter. Where did you say Yellow Wing the Flicker is making his home this year?”

“Over in the Big Hickory-tree by the Smiling Pool,” replied Peter. “I don’t understand yet why Yellow Wing spends so much time on the ground.”

Ants,” replied Jenny Wren. “Just ants. He’s as fond of ants as is Old Mr. Toad, and that is saying a great deal. If Yellow Wing keeps on he’ll become a ground bird instead of a tree bird. He gets more than half his living on the ground now. Speaking of drumming, did you ever hear Yellow Wing drum on a tin roof?”

Peter shook his head.

“Well, if there’s a tin roof anywhere around, and Yellow Wing can find it, he will be perfectly happy. He certainly does love to make a noise, and tin makes the finest kind of a drum.”

Just then Jenny was interrupted by the arrival, on the trunk of the very next tree to the one on which she was sitting, of a bird about the size of Sammy Jay. His whole head and neck were a beautiful, deep red. His breast was pure white, and his back was black to nearly the beginning of his tail, where it was white.

Redhead the Woodpecker, Downy the Woodpecker - Burgess Bird Book ©©

Redhead the Woodpecker, Downy the Woodpecker – Burgess Bird Book ©©

“Hello, Redhead!” exclaimed Jenny Wren. “How did you know we were talking about your family?”

“Hello, chatterbox,” retorted Redhead with a twinkle in his eyes. “I didn’t know you were talking about my family, but I could have guessed that you were talking about some one’s family. Does your tongue ever stop, Jenny?”

Jenny Wren started to become indignant and scold, then thought better of it. “I was talking for Peter’s benefit,” said she, trying to look dignified, a thing quite impossible for any member of the Wren family to do. “Peter has always had the idea that true Woodpeckers never go down on the ground. I was explaining to him that Yellow Wing is a true Woodpecker, yet spends half his time on the ground.”

Redhead nodded. “It’s all on account of ants,” said he. “I don’t know of any one quite so fond of ants unless it is Old Mr. Toad. I like a few of them myself, but Yellow Wing just about lives on them when he can. You may have noticed that I go down on the ground myself once in a while. I am rather fond of beetles, and an occasional grasshopper tastes very good to me. I like a variety. Yes, sir, I certainly do like a variety—cherries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes. In fact most kinds of fruit taste good to me, not to mention beechnuts and acorns when there is no fruit.

Jenny Wren tossed her head. “You didn’t mention the eggs of some of your neighbors,” said she sharply.

Redhead did his best to look innocent, but Peter noticed that he gave a guilty start and very abruptly changed the subject, and a moment later flew away.

“Is it true,” asked Peter, “that Redhead does such a dreadful thing?”

Jenny bobbed her head rapidly and jerked her tail. “So I am told,” said she. “I’ve never seen him do it, but I know others who have. They say he is no better than Sammy Jay or Blacky the Crow. But gracious, goodness! I can’t sit here gossiping forever.” Jenny twitched her funny little tail, snapped her bright eyes at Peter, and disappeared in her house.

Bold points for questions at the bottom or for Christian traits.


For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. (or your beak) (Psalms 128:2 KJV)

He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he. (Proverbs 16:20 KJV)

Seems like these woodpeckers enjoy doing what that is a sign they are happy?

  • Who are the four members of the Woodpecker family mentioned?
  • How does a Woodpecker fly?
  • Which is the smallest member of the family?
  • Can you describe him?
  • Which Woodpecker is just a little bit larger?
  • What about its tail?
  • Which one likes to eat on the ground half the time?
  • What is he looking for?
  • What does Redhead like to eat?


Woodpeckers – Picidae Family

Woodpecker – All About Birds

Woodpecker – Wikipedia



Creaker the Purple Grackle, The Male Cowbird - Burgess Bird Book ©©Thum


  Next Chapter Some Unlikely Relatives





Burgess Bird Book For Children



Robust Woodpecker (Campephilus robustus) by BirdPhotos_com


Wordless Birds




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


Counters with friends making themselves at home

Counters with friends making themselves at home


Counters with friends making themselves at home

Counters with friends making themselves at home


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)



Sunday Inspiration – Woodpeckers

Pileated Woodpecker by Lee at Circle B

Pileated Woodpecker by Lee at Circle B

All the birds of the heavens made their nests in its boughs; Under its branches all the beasts of the field brought forth their young; And in its shadow all great nations made their home. (Ezekiel 31:6 NKJV)

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)

Woodpeckers and their kind belong to the Picidae – Woodpeckers Family. There are 234 species including not only Woodpeckers, but also Wrynecks, Piculets, Flickers, Sapsuckers and Flamebacks. Again, these birds show amazing characteristics given them by their Creator. Check out some of the articles about them below.

Members of this family are found worldwide, except for Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, Madagascar, and the extreme polar regions. Most species live in forests or woodland habitats, although a few species are known to live in treeless areas, such as rocky hillsides and deserts.

The Lord Jesus not only loves all the birds He made, but best of all, He loves us.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 KJV)


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“Jesus Loves Me” by Bonnie Standifer

This piece was written and played by Bonnie Standifer at our Orchestra Concert in March of 2013 at Faith Baptist Church. You have never heard it played this way before. Bonnie is a very gifted arranger and pianist. She is also married to the orchestra conductor.


Picidae – Woodpeckers Family

Sharing The Gospel


Articles Mentioning Birds From This Family:


More Sunday Inspiration


Persona non Grata (Yellow-bellied Sapsucker) – The Woodpeckers

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) by Kent Nickell

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) by Kent Nickell



We shall not attempt to deny that Downy has an unprincipled relative. While it is no discredit, it is a great misfortune to Downy, who is often murdered merely because he looks a little, a very little, like this disreputable cousin of his. The real offender is the sapsucker, that musical genius of whom we have already spoken.

The popular belief is that every woodpecker is a sapsucker, and that every hole he digs in a tree is an injury to the tree. We have seen that every hole Downy digs is a benefit, and now we wish to learn why it is that the sapsucker’s work is any more injurious than other woodpeckers’ holes; how we are to recognize the sapsucker’s work; and how much damage he does. We will do what the scientists often do,—examine the bird’s work and make it tell us the story. There is no danger of hurting the sapsucker’s reputation. The farmer could have no worse opinion of him; and, though the case has been appealed to the higher courts of science more than once,[34] where the sapsucker’s cause has been eloquently and ably defended, the verdict has gone against him. Scientists now do not deny that the sapsucker does harm. But his worst injury is less in the damage he does to the trees than in the ill-will and suspicion he creates against woodpeckers which do no harm at all. If you will study the picture and the descriptions in the Key to the Woodpeckers, you will be able to recognize the sapsucker and his nearest relatives, whether in the East or in the West. But all sapsuckers may be known by their pale yellowish under parts, and by the work they leave behind. As the yellow-bellied sapsucker is the only one found east of the Rocky Mountains, we shall speak only of him and his work.

Work of Sapsucker.

Work of Sapsucker.

Here is a specimen of the yellow-bellied sapsucker’s work which I picked up under the tree from which it had fallen. We do not need to inquire whether the tree was injured by its falling, for we know that the loss of sound and healthy bark is always a damage. Was this sound bark? Yes, because it is still firm and new. The sap in it dried quickly, showing that neither disease nor worms caused it to fall; it is clean and hard on the back, showing that it came from a live tree, not from a dead, rotting log.

Yellow Bellied Woodpecker

Yellow Bellied Woodpecker

How do I know that a bird caused it to fall? The marks are precisely such as are always left by a woodpecker’s bill. How do I know that it was a sapsucker’s work? Because no other woodpecker has the habit which characterizes the sapsucker, of sinking holes in straight lines. The sapsuckers drill lines of holes sometimes around and sometimes up and down the tree-trunk, but almost always in rings or belts about the trunk or branches. A girdle may be but a single line of holes, or it may consist of four or five, or more, lines. Sometimes a band will be two feet wide; and as many as eight hundred holes have been counted on the trunk of a single tree. Such extensive peckings, however, are to be expected only on large forest trees. Most fruit and ornamental trees are girdled a few times about the trunk, and about the principal branches just below the nodes, or forks.

Why did the bird dig these holes? There are three things that he might have obtained,—sap, the inner bark, and boring larvæ. Some naturalists have suggested a fourth as possible,—the insects that would be attracted by the sap.

We will see what the piece of bark tells us. It is four and a half inches long, by an inch and a half wide, and its area of six and three fourths square inches has forty-four punctures. Does this look as if the bird were digging grubs? Do borers live in such straight little streets? The number and arrangement of the holes show that he was not seeking borers, while the naturalists tell us that he never eats a borer unless by accident. What did he get? Undoubtedly he pecked away some of the inner bark. All these holes are much larger on the back side of the specimen than on the outer surface. While the damp inner bark would shrink a little on exposure to the air, we know that it could not shrink as much as this; and investigation has shown that the sapsucker feeds largely on just such food, for it has been found in his stomach. Two other possible food-substances remain,—sap and insects. We know that the sapsucker eats many insects, but it is impossible to prove that he intended these holes for insect lures. Sap he might have gotten from them, if he wished it. We know that the white birch is full of excellent sap, from which can be made a birch candy, somewhat bitter, but nearly as good as horehound candy. The rock and red maples and the white canoe birch are the only trees in our Northern forests from which we make candy. A strong probability that our bird wanted sap is indicated by the arrangement of the holes. Usually he drills his holes in rings around the tree-trunk, but in this instance his longest lines of holes are vertical. If our sapsucker was drilling for sap, he arranged his holes so that it would almost run into his mouth, lazy bird!

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) Holes in a dying Birch ©WikiC

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) Holes in a dying Birch ©WikiC

Our piece of bark has taught us:—

  • That the sapsucker injured this tree.
  • That he was not after grubs.
  • That he got, and undoubtedly ate, the soft inner bark of the tree.
  • That he got, and may have drunk, the sap.

We could not infer any more from a single instance, but the naturalists assure us that the bird is in the habit of injuring trees, that he never eats grubs intentionally, and that he eats too much bark for it to be regarded as taken accidentally with other food. About the sap they cannot be so sure, as it digests very quickly. There remain two points to prove: whether the sapsucker drills his holes for the sake of the sap, or for insects attracted by the sap, provided that he eats anything but the inner bark.

Our little specimen can tell us no more, but two mountain ash trees which were intimate acquaintances of mine from childhood can go on with the story. Do not be surprised that I speak of them as friends; the naturalist who does not make friends of the creatures and plants about will hear few stories from them. These trees would not tell this tale to any one but an intimate acquaintance. Let us hear what they have to say about the sapsucker.

There are in the garden of my old home two mountain ash trees, thirty-six years of age, each having grown from a sprout that sprang up beside an older tree cut down in 1863. They stand not more than two rods apart; have the same soil, the same amount of sun and rain, the same exposure to wind, and equal care. During all the years of my childhood one was a perfectly healthy tree, full of fruit in its season, while the other bore only scanty crops, and was always troubled with cracked and scaling bark. To-day the unhealthy tree is more vigorous than ever before, while its formerly stalwart brother stands a mere wreck of its former life and beauty. What should be the cause of such a remarkable change when all conditions of growth have remained the same?

I admit that there is some internal difference in the trees, for all the birds tell me of it. One has always borne larger and more abundant fruit than the other, but this is no reason why the birds should strip all the berries from that tree before eating any from the other. When we know that the favorite tree stands directly in front of the windows of a much-used room and overhangs a frequented garden path, the preference becomes more marked. But robins, grosbeaks, purple finches, and the whole berry-eating tribe agree to choose one and neglect the other, and even the spring migrants will leave the gay red tassels of fruit still swinging on one tree, to scratch over the leaves and eat the fallen berries that lie beneath the other. My own taste is not keen in choosing between bitter berries, but the birds all agree that there is a decided difference in these trees,—did agree, I should say, for their favorite is the tree that is dying. Evidently this is a question of taste. It is interesting to observe that the sapsucker, which was never seen to touch the fruit of the trees, agrees with the fruit-eating birds. Nearly all his punctures were in the tree now dying. Is there a difference in the taste of the sap? Does the taste of the sap affect the taste of the fruit? Or is it merely a question of quantity? If he comes for sap, he prefers one tree to the other on the score either of better quality or greater quantity.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) ©WikiC

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) ©WikiC

We will discuss later whether it is sap that he wishes: all that now concerns us is to note that the internal difference, whatever it is, is in favor of the tree that is dying; while the only external difference appears to be the marks left by the sapsucker. While one tree is sparingly marked by him, the other is tattooed with his punctures, placed in single rings and in belts around trunk and branches beneath every fork. It is a law of reasoning that, when every condition but one is the same and the effects are different, the one exceptional condition is the cause of the difference. If these trees are alike in everything except the work of the sapsucker (the only internal difference apparently offsetting his work in part), what inference do we draw as to the effect of his work?

We presume that he is killing the tree, without as yet knowing how he does it. What is his object? Good observers have stated that he draws a little sap in order to attract flies and wasps; that the sap is not drawn for its own sake, but as a bait for insects. Is this theory true?

The first objection is that it is improbable. The sapsucker is a retiring, woodland bird that would hesitate to come into a town garden a mile away from the nearest woods unless to get something he could not find in the woods. Had he wanted insects, he would have tapped a tree in the woods, or else he would have caught them in his usual flycatching fashion. There must have been something about the mountain ash tree that he craved. As it is a very rare tree in the vicinity of my home, the sapsucker’s only chance to satisfy his longing was by coming to some town garden like our own.

Not only is the theory improbable, but it fails to explain the sapsucker’s actions in this instance. In twenty years he was never seen to catch an insect that was attracted by the sap he drew. This does not deny that he may have caught insects now and then, but it does deny that he set the sap running for a lure. As he was never far away, and was sometimes only four and a half feet by measure from a chamber window, all that he did could be seen. He did not catch insects at his holes. He drank sap and ate bark.

Finally, the theory is not only improbable and inadequate, but in this instance it is impossible. I do not remember seeing a sapsucker in the tree in the spring; if he came in the summer, it must have been at rare intervals; but he was always there in the fall, when the leaves were dropping. At that season the insect hordes had been dispersed by the autumnal frosts, so that we know he did not come for insects.

In the many years during which I watched the sapsuckers—for there were undoubtedly a number of different birds that came, although never more than one at a time—there was such a curious similarity in their actions that it is entirely proper to speak as if the same bird returned year after year. His visits, as I have said, were usually made at the same season. He would come silently and early, with the evident intention of making this an all-day excursion. By eight o’clock he would be seen clinging to a branch and curiously observant of the dining-room window, which at that hour probably excited both his interest and his alarm. Early in the day he showed considerable activity, flitting from limb to limb and sinking a few holes, three or four in a row, usually above the previous upper girdle of the limbs he selected to work upon. After he had tapped several limbs he would sit waiting patiently for the sap to flow, lapping it up quickly when the drop was large enough. At first he would be nervous, taking alarm at noises and wheeling away on his broad wings till his fright was over, when he would steal quietly back to his sap-holes. When not alarmed, his only movement was from one row of holes to another, and he tended them with considerable regularity. As the day wore on he became less excitable, and clung cloddishly to his tree-trunk with ever increasing torpidity, until finally he hung motionless as if intoxicated, tippling in sap, a disheveled, smutty, silent bird, stupefied with drink, with none of that brilliancy of plumage and light-hearted gayety which made him the noisiest and most conspicuous bird of our April woods.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) by Raymond Barlow

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) by Raymond Barlow

Our mountain ash trees have told us several facts about the sapsucker:—

  • That he did not come to eat insects.
  • That he did come to drink sap, and that he probably ate the inner bark also.
  • That he drank the sap because he liked it, not for some secondary object, as insects.
  • That he could detect difference in the quality or quantity of the sap, which caused him to prefer a particular tree.

That this difference apparently was in the taste of the sap, and that the effects of a day’s drinking of mountain ash sap seemed to indicate some intoxicant or narcotic quality in the sap of that particular tree.

That the effect of his work upon the tree was apparently injurious, as it is the only cause assigned of a healthy tree’s dying before a less healthy one of the same age and species, subject all its life to the same conditions.

So much we have learned about this sapsucker’s habits, and now we should like to know why his work is harmful, and why that of the other woodpeckers is not. It is not because he drinks the sap. All the sap he could eat or waste would not harm the tree, if allowed to run out of a few holes. Think how many gallons the sugar-makers drain out of a single tree without killing the tree. But the sugar-maker takes the sap in the spring, when the crude sap is mounting up in the tree, while the sapsucker does not begin his work till midsummer or autumn, when the tree is sending down its elaborated sap to feed the trunk and make it grow. This accounts for the woodpecker’s digging his pits above the lines of the holes already in the tree. The loss of this elaborated sap is a greater injury than the waste of a far larger quantity of crude sap, so that on the season of the year when the sapsucker digs his holes depends in large measure the amount of damage he does. The injury that he does to the wood itself is trivial. He is not a woodpecker except at time of nesting, and most woodpeckers prefer to build in a dead or dying branch, where their work does no hurt. But we know very well that a tree may be a wreck, riven from top to bottom by lightning, split open to the heart by the tempest, entirely hollow the whole length of its trunk, and yet may flourish and bear fruit. The tree lives in its outer layers. It may be crippled in almost any way, if the bark is left uninjured; but if an inch of bark is cut out entirely around the tree, it will die, for the sap can no longer run up and down to nourish it.

This is the sapsucker’s crime: he girdles the tree,—not at his first coming, nor yet at his second, not with one row of holes, nor yet with two; but finally, after years perhaps, when row after row of punctures, each checking a little the flow of sap, have overlapped and offset each other and narrowed the channels through which it could mount and descend, until the flow is stopped. Then the tree dies. It is not the holes he makes, nor the sap he draws, but the way he places his holes that makes the sapsucker an unwelcome visitor. For an unacceptable individual he is to the farmer,—persona non grata, as kings say of ambassadors who do not please their majesties. What shall we do with him, the only black sheep in all the woodpecker flock? Let him alone, unless we are positively sure that we know him from every other kind of woodpecker. The damage he does is trifling compared with what we should do if we made war upon other woodpeckers for some supposed wrong-doing of the sapsucker.

Lee’s Addition:

The trees of the LORD are full of sap, The cedars of Lebanon which He planted, (Psalms 104:16 NKJV)

This is Chapter VII 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.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) ©WikiC

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) ©WikiC


It is quite lenghty, but it is also very interesting. I did not know that the Woodpeckers have a “black sheep in the woodpecker flock.”

I am sure the Lord had a reason why He created the Sapsuckers. Why kill all woodpeckers just to get rid on one “bad” one? That sounds like letting the wheat and tares grow together, so that the good wheat isn’t destroyed by picking the tares.

But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ‘ ” (Matthew 13:29-30 NKJV)




A Clash of Wills

A tiny owl and an angry woodpecker clash - from Mail Online

A tiny owl and an angry woodpecker clash – from Mail Online

My friend, Pastor Pete, sent me this photo. I am sharing it with you all also. It was posted in the Mail Online. The two were battling over food for their young. Click Here to read the article.

He also sent me a photo of a Blue-footed Booby scratching. Couldn’t find it on line, but found this one by Max Ruckman that is ©©

Blue-footed Booby Scratching ©© Max Ruckman

Blue-footed Booby Scratching ©© Max Ruckman

We have been running all day, but wanted to share something with you. Keep watching those birds. You never know what they will be doing next.

I don’t believe the first two birds are giving a good example of this verse:

Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, (1 Timothy 6:18 NKJV)

and the second one:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NKJV)


Friend Downy – The Woodpeckers

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) Brevard Zoo by Dan

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) Brevard Zoo by Dan



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.



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.


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)


pik and rattle call


Ochre-collared Piculet (Picumnus temminckii) by Dario Sanches

Ochre-collared Piculet (Picumnus temminckii) by Dario Sanches



How The Woodpecker Courts His Mate – The Woodpeckers

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) Brevard Zoo by Dan

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) Brevard Zoo by Dan



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)


Picidae – Woodpeckers Family

The Woodpeckers by Fannie Hardy Eckstorm

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