Another of my favorite woodpeckers

I posted last week about seeing a family of pileated woodpeckers looking for insects in my backyard. Also last week, I had a chance encounter with another one of my favorite woodpecker species: the northern flicker.

I was drawn to the backyard as I heard a flicker noisily issuing its alarm call over and over. It turns out, a cat was walking through the yard and several birds were scolding the feline. The flicker, however, was by far the loudest and most agitated. There were most likely young flickers around but I didn’t see them.

Flickers are handsome birds with an interesting assortment of colors and decorations. Note the bib under the neck and spots on the chest and belly. The bird shown in the photographs is a female. Males have a black “mustache.”

The northern flicker is made up of two subspecies: yellow-shafted flicker and red-shafted flicker, which were once considered two separate species. Here in New England, we have the yellow-shafted variety. The name comes from the yellow feathers on the underside of the tail and wings.

More photos for … ‘Adult pileated woodpecker shows youngster the ropes’

Photo by Chris Bosak
A young pileated woodpecker searches a fallen tree trunk for insects, Danbury, Conn., summer 2019.

Here are some more photos from my recent pileated woodpecker experience. Here’s the original post, in case you missed it.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A young pileated woodpecker knocks on a fallen tree trunk as it looks for insects, Danbury, Conn., summer 2019.
Photo by Chris Bosak
A young pileated woodpecker knocks on a fallen tree trunk as it looks for insects, Danbury, Conn., summer 2019.
Photo by Chris Bosak
A young pileated woodpecker knocks on a fallen tree trunk as it looks for insects, Danbury, Conn., summer 2019.

Back to the adult …

Adult pileated woodpecker shows youngster the ropes

Photo by Chris Bosak
A pileated woodpecker knocks on a fallen tree trunk as it looks for insects, Danbury, Conn., summer 2019.

I heard a loud banging from my side yard the other day. I assumed a neighbor was doing some work involving a hammer as noises echo and carry far in the small lake community in which I live.

Like any good, nosy neighbor, I stepped onto the deck to see what was going on. The noise was coming from the edge of the woods and it wasn’t a neighbor with a hammer at all, it was four pileated woodpeckers looking for a meal. The main noisemaker was the adult male who was banging away on a tree trunk that had fallen to the ground many, many years ago. He was perched on top of the trunk and a young male was a few feet away on the ground watching his dad go to work. An adult female and another youngster (I couldn’t tell the gender) were working on the trunks of nearby standing trees.

Twice, the adult male found an insect or worm and stretched its neck toward the youngster to offer the morsel. The youngster, of course, accepted. The daddy pileated woodpecker worked its way along the fallen trunk and eventually flew to the nearby trunk where the mother was busy looking for meals. The young male took his father’s place atop the fallen trunk and started pounding some holes of his own. I couldn’t tell if he was successful or not, but he certainly learned a thing or two by watching his parents at work.

Male and female pileated woodpeckers have red heads. Only males have the red “mustache” extending from the bill.

Here’s one of the adult feeding the youngster. I was a fair distance away and didn’t want to get closer and risk breaking up the family group, hence the poor quality of the photo.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A pileated woodpecker feeds a youngster, Danbury, Conn., summer 2019.

New England’s woodpeckers

Photo by Chris Bosak A pileated woodpecker looks for insects at the base of a tree at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., April 2017.
Photo by Chris Bosak
A pileated woodpecker looks for insects at the base of a tree at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., April 2017.

I’ve been lucky enough this week to have seen six of the woodpeckers that live in New England. In fact, early in the week I had for the first time a yellow-bellied sapsucker at my feeder. It made two quick visits to a suet feeder and disappeared for good.

The species I saw were downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, northern flicker, red-bellied woodpecker, yellow-bellied sapsucker and pileated woodpecker. Those are the most commonly seen woodpeckers in New England. Red-headed woodpeckers are seen on occasion and a few species (black-backed and three-toed) require a trip to far northern New England to see.

Songbirds, such as warblers and grosbeaks, steal the show during spring, but woodpeckers Continue reading

Working for peanuts

Photo by Chris Bosak A downy woodpecker eats peanuts from a feeder in Danbury, CT, March 2019.

Here’s a downy woodpecker getting peanuts from the homemade feeder I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

It’s funny how birds prefer their food offered in different ways. White-breasted nuthatches and downy woodpeckers are all over this feeder. They typically perch on the feeder and peck away at the shell to expose the nut inside. My other peanut eaters — blue jays, red-bellied woodpeckers and tufted titmice — barely touch this feeder and prefer to grab their peanuts from a platform feeder and fly off with it.

For the Birds: DIY birding projects

Photo by Chris Bosak
A downy woodpecker eats a homemade Christmas-themed suet cake, December 2018.

Most birdwatchers I know have a self-reliant, practical side. They don’t necessarily long to live off the grid in a small cabin in the wilderness, hunting for their food and cutting down trees to stay warm, but there is a hint of that spirit in a lot of us.

Luckily, there are many do-it-yourself projects for birdwatchers that may be done in the comfort of our heated, electrified, and well-stocked homes. The projects will save a few bucks (no pun intended) and result in that satisfaction only a good DIY activity can deliver.

The easiest project is making your own hummingbird food. It is inexpensive and requires almost no skill. In other words, perfect for someone like me.

Simply mix four parts water with one part sugar and you’ve got hummingbird food. I usually double the recipe to eight cups of water and two cups of sugar so it lasts longer. I like to bring the water to the point at which it is about to boil then turn off the heat and add the sugar. Most of the sugar will dissolve itself in the hot water, but a minute or two Continue reading

A nice first bird of the year

Photo by Chris Bosak A pileated woodpecker searches for food in a dead tree on New Year's Day 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A pileated woodpecker searches for food in a dead tree on New Year’s Day 2018.

The weather app on the phone said the temperature was 0 degrees (yes, as in zero). It was New Year’s Day, though, so no excuses: I had to take that walk I promised myself I’d take.

Photo by Chris Bosak A pileated woodpecker searches for food in a dead tree on New Year's Day 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A pileated woodpecker searches for food in a dead tree on New Year’s Day 2018.

As soon as I walked out the door I heard a loud knocking that I strongly suspected was a pileated woodpecker. A quick glance in the direction of the knocking and my suspicion was confirmed. A female pileated woodpecker banged away at a dead tree in the backyard (well, technically not my backyard, but open space that abuts my backyard.)

First bird of 2018 is a pileated woodpecker. Not bad at all.

I watched the crow-sized woodpecker for several minutes and snapped photos until my “shooting” hand froze. That didn’t take long.

I moved on to give the woodpecker some peace and quiet on this frigid day.

The rest of the walk was rather uneventful, but I did see three other types of Continue reading