Thursday, February 11, 2010

One of the things I love about our front yard is that it has always attracted woodpeckers, birds that I find totally fascinating to watch. We normally get three species.

The most regular visitors have been Downy Woodpeckers. Ever since we moved in five years ago, we've had daily visits from Downys. Even on days when few other birds visited, we could be pretty sure that a Downy male or fema
le or both would come several times to eat at the suet feeder. We've watched their courting behavior - we once saw four males trying to impress our female, all in the same tree at the same time. Each year we've watched them raise their young and show them how to access the feeder.

We've also had regular visits from male and female Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Much larger than the Downy, these birds haven't restricted themselves to eating suet. Instead, they have often come to the tube feeders, scattering House Finches and Northern Cardinals as they arrive. They have even managed to push aside White-winged Doves to get at the seeds on the platform feeder. Like the Downys, they have raised young and introduced them to our yard.

Then there have been the Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. A male and female have arrived from the north every fall and have spent the winter feeding on our elm tree. They often drill a series of holes around a branch and then sit for hours waiting for the sap to collect.

Well, something has changed and our woodpeckers seem to have deserted us. The Red-bellieds were the first to disappear: I haven't seen one since the middle of December. A male Sapsucker turned up as usual at the start of fall and came regularly until mid-December, when he, too, stopped visiting. Then at the end of the year the Downys abandoned us and still have not returned.

I know that all three species are still in our neighborhood, because I hear them as I drive or walk along our street. So it's just our yard that they have decided to boycott. I wish I knew why, because I really miss them!


Birdwoman said...

I find the Downies sporadic in their visits to my yard, although I hear them calling around the neighborhood. The Red-bellieds are among the most dependable birds at my feeders at all seasons of the year. Other woodpeckers, like the Pileated, are just occasional visitors and are great treats when they show up. All woodpeckers are great fun to watch and I can certainly understand your disappointment at their desertion. I felt the same way about the long absence of mockingbirds and cardinals from my yard.

Jeff said...

It is certainly very odd how the birds come and go, Birdwoman. I can see no pattern or logic to it. We are lucky enough to have N. Cardinals and N. Mockingbirds visit every day. However, lovely as they are, they can't fill the hole left by the woodpeckers.