[CT Birds] woodpecker behavior

Peregrine Information Consultants info at peregrineinfo.com
Fri Jun 6 11:14:05 EDT 2008

I maintain 2 suet feeders in our back yard (3 in the winter) to accommodate the many woodpeckers, catbirds, and other visitors that come every day to feed there.

Today the an entire family of downy woodpeckers arrived; the adults come all day every day, but this was the first day I've seen the young in tow.

As the adult male downy was at one of the suet feeders, the resident male red-bellied woodpecker swooped in. Usually the other birds (even the jays) scatter when any red-belly (male or female) arrives, but this time the downy stood his ground -- he had young ones to feed! The red-belly attacked the downy, first by posturing with outspread wings and vocalizing, then, when the downy did not fly away, the red-belly grabbed the downy by the head - I think he actually grasped the other bird's bill -- and swung him back and forth vigorously about a dozen times, then tossed him into the air. The downy seemed OK, "picked himself up" in mid-air, and flew to the other suet feeder! Tenacious behavior from each bird. I have often seen inter-species tussles (mostly displays and vocalizations) at the feeders, but never this sort of physical encounter.

One day a red squirrel, wanting to get at the spilled seed where a grey squirrel was feeding, snuck up behind the larger mammal, took a long running start, and butted the big one in the behind. The grey squirrel jumped about two feet in the air and took off. Red squirrel then enjoyed a leisurely lunch.


Sarah Hager Johnston, BMus, MLS

Peregrine Information Consultants
Research and writing for insurance, risk management, safety & health, business, and medical professionals 

Grace Notes
Program annotations, research, and writing services for classical musical ensembles and the professionals who serve them

More information about the CTBirds mailing list