|Gila Woodpecker, Corona de Tucson, AZ 1-2-2009|
It's no secret that woodpeckers are one of my favorite families of birds. I love the way they cling to trees or hang upside down, and figure things out. I find them fun to watch and I love to try to attract them to my yard. They have some of the most beautiful and interesting plumages and behaviors, but one day this past summer I became very intrigued by what woodpeckers eat.
|Gila Woodpecker, Corona de Tucson, AZ 4-11-2009|
Here in Arizona the Gila woodpeckers will go through all kinds of contortions to drink nectar from my hummingbird feeders!
|Gila Woodpecker, Corona de Tucson, AZ 10-11-2009|
Their strong toes and stiff tail feathers allow them to prop themselves against tree trunks or even the bottom of the nectar feeder!
|Downy Woodpecker, Andover, MA 1-22-2012|
Most woodpeckers will eat suet.
|Downy Woodpecker at the Geremonty Marsh, Salem, NH 10-19-2011|
As well as searching for insects and grubs in the bark of infested trees.
|Downy Woodpecker, Andover, MA 3-30-2011|
In the northeast I found downy woodpeckers searching for insects in the stalks of cattails at a bog.
|Downy Woodpecker on mullein, Andover, MA 2012|
But I was most surprised to step outside my front door in Andover, Massachusetts last summer only to discover a Downy Woodpecker clinging to this giant mullein plant in my front yard. I do not know if it was eating insects or seeds, but it clung to the stalk for over an hour working its way up and down the stem.
|Red-naped Sapsucker, Tucson, AZ 1-5-2009|
One of the most interesting birds in the woodpecker family are the sapsuckers. sapsuckers are so named because they drill holes in the trunks of trees, then drink the sap that flows, as well as eat the insects that get caught in the flowing sap. In the northeast you will frequently find birch trees drilled with very symmetrical holes encircling a tree.
|Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Norridgewock, ME 2012|
|Pileated Woodpecker, Farmington, Maine 4-10-2011|
One of the most impressive woodpeckers is the pileated. While this is not my best photo of one, I really like that it shows the bird pulling an insect out of a hole that it exposed by chiseling away the bark with its massive bill.
|Acorn Woodpeckers, Madera Canyon, AZ, 1-19-2009|
|Gilded Flicker, Corona de Tucson, 5-9-2007|
Another favorite woodpecker family of mine are the flickers. Here in the United States we have Northern flickers throughout much of the country, and Gilded Flickers here in the Sonoran desert. While all flickers will eat suet, seeds, fruit, and insects, they can also frequently be found on the ground eating ants.
|Red-bellied Woodpecker, Andover, MA 6-26-2012|
The Red-bellied woodpeckers of the east will eat suet, seeds and fruit. The first red-bellied woodpecker I ever saw was in Florida eating oranges and grapefruits in my brother's yard. As you can see from these pictures, almost all woodpeckers can be drawn to your yard by putting out suet cakes.
|Arizona Woodpecker, Madera Canyon 3-28-2007|
One of the rarest woodpeckers in North America is the Arizona Woodpecker. Though it looks superficially similar to the Downy Woodpecker, and it is of a similar size, it is our only brown woodpecker.
This one is clinging to the bark of an alligator juniper tree in Madera Canyon twisting its neck into a humanly impossible angle as it searches for insects beneath the bark.
|Downy Woodpecker, Andover, MA July 25, 2012|
So, whether eating insects or suet, seeds or nectar, watching woodpeckers is so much fun.
Note: Kathiesbirds has moved back to Tucson, AZ as of the end of August 2012. You can still read about my birding adventures on Kathie's Birds, or read my bird and nature poetry on Kathie's Poet Tree. If you would like to read about my first experience with living in Arizona, then follow the link to Sycamore Canyon, the first blog I ever wrote! Either way, I am always having fun birding because Birding is Fun!