Woodpecker Alarm Clock

Most people have alarm clocks.

We have Woodpeckers.

And they are pretty good at making sure no one really sleeps in over the weekend.

Last year, the two breeding Red-Bellied Woodpeckers (a misleading name, since only the tops or backs of their heads are actually red – but “Red-Headed Woodpecker” was already taken) had both a male chick and a female chick.  Normally, the woodpeckers arrive in spring and depart somewhere by the end of summer.  But the young male decided to take up residence, and has remained ever since.

His parents are back, along with their daughter from last year.

The reason I know these are the returning parents is because of behavior they learned a couple or three years ago and have repeated with each arrival – banging on the gutter like a jackhammer.

I think the origin of this is because usually prior to opening our French-window back door to put food out for wildlife, I usually tap several times on the glass so I don’t startle anyone out there.  The female woodpecker (Woodina) began doing the “rap-on-the-gutter” first.  I remember hearing a loud and rapid hammering outside and couldn’t figure out what it was until I looked up and saw, basically, this (click picture for larger view):








I tossed a peanut up to her (because woodpeckers also love roasted, unsalted peanuts as a treat).  She proceeded to teach the male woodpecker (Woody) and her daughter Baby Woodina.

All of them have a different style.  Woodina is the most assertive.  She will do a rapid and continuous hammering, wait about 5-10 seconds, and then repeat it, and so on for a few cycles.  She’ll wait on the gutter for me to toss her a peanut.  She’ll also let me toss one in the air and she will soar after it and catch it mid-air – which is quite an impressive trick.

Baby Woodina does just two rather subdued taps and also waits there.  Woody will tap, and immediately fly up into the tree because he’s shy.  Baby Woody prefers to issue a call when he’s in the tree rather than tapping (see this site and click on the “Kwirr” call to hear what it sounds like).  I toss his peanuts onto the patio and he swoops down to get them (click picture for larger view):








Along with the woodpeckers, we have a bevy of other birds.  Here’s a Blue Jay who is a very sedate fellow (or gal).  Normally Blue Jays are fairly raucous and aggressive.  This one has a very mild temperament – not shy – but simply very laid-back.  If you’re curious what’s on the end of his beak, it’s a Golden Rain Tree Beetle (click picture for larger view):








We’re also seeing a lot of Morning Glories this year, due to timely and generous rainfall.  The Morning Glory has always been my favorite flower, for the record  (click picture for larger view):








Besides Woodpeckers and Blue Jays, as I’ve mentioned before, Squirrels love roasted, unsalted peanuts.  This squirrel has a slightly-askew right rear paw – but it hasn’t ever stopped her from climbing and jumping (a missed jump is the likely cause of the problem).   I usually call her Left-Paw Squirrel – because when I ask if she wants a peanut, she raises her left forepaw and waves at me.  It’s always the left forepaw, and none of the other squirrels ever do this.  They just stare at me blankly or sit up, looking around  (click picture for larger view):

An annual arrival

Woodpeckers begin to make their appearance this time of year, already preparing to raise young who will emerge with the spring.

We see red-bellied woodpeckers in our area.  They don’t actually have red bellies.  The males have red heads while the females have a red cape across the back of their neck.  But “red-headed” woodpecker was a name that was probably already taken.

A few years ago, Woody (the male) began to pay attention to the fact that I tap a few times on the glass of the back door prior to opening it and tossing out a few peanuts for whatever critters have congregated.

I soon began to hear a rapid and loud thumping outside.  After hearing it on a few occasions, I happened to look up and noticed Woody clinging to the gutter on the edge of the house where it extends past the back door.  So I opened the door and tossed a peanut to him.

Woody taught his wife, Woodina, and they taught Baby Woodina and others of the next couple generations.

Last year, baby Woody remained behind after the parents eventually moved on to wherever it is they usually go by late summer.  He’s remained through the winter, full-grown now with a brilliant red head.  And also very feisty – unlike his more shy father, he’s very willing to snatch a peanut out from under the very beak of a larger blue jay as the latter is about to pick one up.

However, baby Woody has chosen through all this to “call” when he gets a peanut hankering sort of feeling.  Wodpeckers don’t have a particularly beautiful songbird kind of song, but it’s very distinctive.

This morning, just after I closed the door after tossing out a handful of peanuts, I heard a rapid staccato on the gutter and looked out.  Woodina has returned (or maybe a grown daughter).  So up went a peanut and off she flew with her prize.  A little while later, she repeated it again and was satisfied with a second welcome-back treat.

I’m hoping her mate will also make an appearance and they’ll raise out young once again.