Sunday, January 29, 2012

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker looks very similar to the Golden-Fronted Woodpecker elsewhere in this blog. Unlike most woodpeckers, Red-Bellies eat lots of plant material and seldom excavate the wood for insects. They forage in trees, on the ground, and even on the wing, eating insects, seeds, nuts, and fruit - sometimes tree sap, bird eggs, and small amphibians. Their "red bellies" are just a small area that is difficult to see in the field. Red-Bellied Woodpeckers live more than 20 years.

Male Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Female Red-Bellied Woodpecker
The Female does not have the continuous red cap that the male does.

White-Breasted Nuthatch

This little Nuthatch is a strange-looking creature as it moves headfirst down a tree trunk while foraging for invertebrates, seemingly not knowing which way is "up". It is known for wedging nuts and seeds into crevices and hacking them open with its beak. They nest in natural cavities in large deciduous trees, or even make use of abandoned woodpecker nests.

This Nuthatch poses with a nut he has wedged in the tree bark.
White-Breasted Nuthatch

White-Breasted Nuthatch
The White-Breasted Nuthatch is a common visitor to backyard feeders, but I have personally not seen any at mine yet. These were taken at Lake McClellan in the panhandle.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Blue Jay

I bought a small bag of salted in-shell peanuts and put them out for the birds. I'm glad it was a small bag, because it's not a good idea to use salted peanuts for birds. It's better to use unsalted peanuts for birds. The Blue Jays simply love peanuts in the shell, but the salted ones are not good for them. Too much salt is just as bad for them as it is us. So, later today I'll get some unsalted peanuts - in the shell.

(Blue Jay)
It's fun to watch the Blue Jays snatch them up and fly off to eat them nearby. Sometimes they'll take them about 10 yards away and eat them on the ground. Sometimes they'll head for the branches of a tree. This Jay found a 6" branch with an appropriate spot in our elm tree where he could safely open it up and "chow down" before returning for another.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ladder-Backed Woodpecker

This morning while checking my feeders, I heard the "tap-tap-tapping" common to woodpeckers. As I watched the branches of our Elm tree for the source of the sound, I caught sight of a bright red spot popping out from behind one. This is what I saw:

(Ladder-Backed Woodpecker)
(Ladder-Backed Woodpecker)

The Ladder-Backed Woodpecker often feeds and nests in cacti in the Southwest. It's a small woodpecker that mainly feeds on insects such ants and beetles. Females generally like to feed in upper branches, whereas males tend to feed closer to the trunk or near the ground. This male was, however, feeding in the upper branches.  The Ladder-Backed Woodpecker is a year-round resident of the panhandle, albeit being a "rare to common" resident. They nest in trees, cacti, agave, yucca, or even a utility pole. The nests are likely drilled by the males, and lined with wood chips.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

I found this photo from a couple years ago - April of 2010. It apparently slipped under my radar and I never identified it or pursued it.

(Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker)
The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker winters in the panhandle. It "drills" wells in tree bark serve to collect sap, and attract bugs. The Sapsucker makes the rounds visiting its "wells" and eating the bugs it attracts. It also eats the sap, not by sucking as its name suggests, but lapping it up with its tongue - which resembles a paint brush.