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Friday, December 04, 2009

Stokes Feeder Friday, Woodpeckers!

Downy Woodpecker, male at suet.

Hairy Woodpecker, female at hulled sunflower.

Woodpeckers are great feeder birds because they're easy to attract and several species, the Downy and Hairy Woodpecker, live just about all over the country. These two look-alike Woodpeckers are best told apart by size, the Hairy is 9 1/4 inches tall and the Downy is 6 3/4 inches tall. Males of both species have a red patch at the back of the head.

The trick to attracting them is to offer the right food, in the type of feeder that allows them to cling and feed naturally. We find the favorite foods of Downy and Hairy are suet, hulled sunflower, black oil sunflower and other nutmeats like peanuts. In our yard, the two foods they most prefer are suet and hulled sunflower. Suet is a type of beef fat that is rendered (cooked and cooled) and formed into square cakes, often with some seeds or fruit added.

The above Hairy Woodpecker female is on our Stokes Select Sunflower Screen Feeder, a large enough feeder, with good clinging surface, allowing this large woodpecker to hang on and feed on the hulled sunflower. Woodpeckers in the wild like to cling on and hitch around tree trunks and limbs, probing for insect larvae in the bark, so feeders that allow them to hold on in their usual manner are appealing to them. That's not to say they don't come to tube feeders with short perches as well. The smaller Downy Woodpecker masters that a little better in our yard than the larger Hairy Woodpecker.

There are some cool things we like about these woodpeckers. They excavate their own nest holes, the Hairy in live wood the Downy in dead wood. They "drum" (a rapid pounding on a resonate tree or surface), instead of singing, to attract a mate and define a territory. Usually they make "teek" calls as a way of keeping in contact. They live as a pair all year round, on the same territory. Our Hairy Woodpeckers bring their babies to the feeder when they first fledge. The fledgling hangs on the feeder and the adult grabs the food and feeds it to the waiting mouth. Eventually, the young learn on their own and come to the feeders when they are independent.

So, just by offering their favorite foods in the right containers, you can have woodpecker entertainment all year. What woodpeckers do you attract and what are their favorite foods?


Life Looms Large said...

I love seeing woodpeckers at our feeders!

I always bring the suet in at the beginning of April when it starts to thaw, but I'm guessing I might need to leave it out longer if I want to see fledglings. I would love to see that. (I'm in NH too - what time of year do these woodpeckers fledge around here?)



Kat said...

I have a Red-bellied Woodpecker, I call "Big Boy" that I absolutely adore. He and his mate feed on our black oil sunflower seeds. I love their calls and the way they fly off. We also have the Downy woodpeckers here to, which are also very entertaining. I wish we could figure out a way to get the Pilateds to come closer, but they are so illusive.

Kim said...

I get Hairy, Downy and Red-belly's daily. They seem to like the chipped sunflower best. But will go to the store bought suet (peanut and sometimes bugs). We occasionaly have a Norther Flicker in the grass around the garden and a Pileated that comes to the peanut suet blocks. The Pileated is my favorite. He calls everytime he flies in.