Birds of the Week # 17
Northern Flickers are the only woodpeckers that frequently feed on the ground, probing with their beak, also sometimes catching insects in flight. Although they eat fruits, berries, seeds, and nuts, their primary food is insects. Ants alone can make up 45% of their diet. Other invertebrates eaten include flies, butterflies, moths, beetles, and snails. Flickers also eat berries and seeds, especially in winter, including poison oak and poison ivy, dogwood, sumac, wild cherry, grape, bayberries, hackberries, and elderberries, as well as sunflower and thistle seeds. Flickers often break into underground ant colonies to get at the nutritious larvae there, hammering at the soil the way other woodpeckers drill into wood. They have been observed breaking up cow dung to eat insects living within. Their tongues can dart out 50 mm (2.0 in) beyond the end of the bill to catch prey.
The Red-headed Woodpecker was historically a common species in southern Canada and the east-central United States. Consistent long-term population declines have resulted in red-headed woodpecker’s threatened status in Canada and several states in the US. Throughout most of its range it inhabits areas that have been heavily altered by humans. Factors suggested for red-headed woodpecker declines include: loss of overall habitat and, within habitats, standing dead wood required for nest sites, limitations of food supply, and possible nest-site competition with other cavity nesters such as European starlings or red-bellied woodpeckers.
The Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla) is a small songbird found in pine forests throughout the Southeastern United States. Genetic analyses indicated low differentiation between northern and southern populations in Florida, but the study also found lower genetic diversity among south Florida populations that may be a result of the increased habitat fragmentation that was documented. A population on the Bahamas showed moderate to high differentiation compared with Florida populations.
The Tufted Titmouse gathers food from the ground and from tree branches. It eats berries, nuts, insects, small fruit, snails, and seeds. Caterpillars constitute a major part of its diet during the summer. Titmice will stash food for later use. The titmouse can demonstrate curiosity regarding humans, and sometimes will perch on a window ledge and seem to be peering into the house. It may cling to the windows and walls of buildings seeking prey in wasp and hornet nests. It is a regular visitor around bird feeders. Its normal pattern is to scout a feeder from cover, fly in to take a seed, then fly back to cover to eat it.
Adult Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest of North America’s woodpeckers, but there are many smaller species elsewhere, especially the piculets. The total length of the species ranges from 14 to 18 cm (5.5 to 7.1 in) and the wingspan from 25 to 31 cm (9.8 to 12.2 in). Body mass ranges from 20 to 33 g (0.71 to 1.16 oz). Standard measurements are as follows: the wing chord is 8.5–10 cm (3.3–3.9 in), the tail is 4–6 cm (1.6–2.4 in), the bill is 1–1.8 cm (0.39–0.71 in) and the tarsus is 1.1–1.7 cm (0.43–0.67 in). The downy woodpecker is mainly black on the upperparts and wings, with a white back, throat and belly and white spotting on the wings. There is one white bar above the eye, and one below. They have a black tail with white outer feathers barred with black. Adult males have a red patch on the back of the head whereas juvenile birds display a red cap.
The adult male of the White-breasted Nuthatch (S. c. carolinensis), has pale blue-gray upperparts, a glossy black cap (crown of the head), and a black band on the upper back. The wing coverts and flight feathers are very dark gray with paler fringes, and the closed wing is pale gray and black, with a thin white wing bar. The face and the underparts are white. The outer tail feathers are black with broad diagonal white bands across the outer three feathers, a feature readily visible in flight.
© HJ Ruiz – Avian101