Do any of you remember the cartoon character Woody the Woodpecker? When I was a kid, I used to watch the Woody Woodpecker Show. I loved him so much that I got a Woody Woodpecker puppet. I remember that his head was really heavy and would flop around if I didn’t hold my hand just right. Remember, this was way back in a time when technology was still large and clunky. He had a pull string that made him give his famous call (laugh?). I would pull that string like crazy, making my brother beg me to stop. I wouldn’t even wait until Woody was done with his laugh before I pulled the string again. I was a very annoying child at times.
Thus began my fascination with woodpeckers even though I am more likely to hear one than see one. It’s so difficult to spot them in the woods when all you hear is them beating their beaks against a tree. I’ve often wondered how they didn’t end up with the headache to end all headaches from all that pounding. Turns out a sponge-like area separates the skull from the beak and that helps protect the woodpecker, as well as a beak that doesn’t line up top to bottom, which helps distribute the force of each blow. Fascinating!
When I visit my brother, Michael, in Michigan, we will often see red-bellied and downy woodpeckers in his backyard. Along with the blue jays and the Cooper’s hawk named Christmas, woodpeckers are the favorite bird of MaryJo,his wife. Here in our backyard, we’ve seen the same birds (well, not the exact same birds, but you know what I mean!) coming into our yard. I just enjoy the way they hop up and down the trees. My favorite is the red-bellied woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinas, because I love the checkerboard markings and red head. (And why it’s called a red-bellied when its belly isn’t red, I’ll never know…) We use suet to attract these birds, but I think that the feeder we haven’t isn’t the best for them because they have to hang upside-down to feed. I’ve read that woodpeckers like to be able to use their tail to support themselves while feeding, and our feeder doesn’t do that. If anyone can recommend a good feeder or feeding method, please let me know.
Until next time!