Birds on the Balcony: woodpecker wars

Now I know what a woodpecker in a bad mood sounds like…

“The whole world is a series of miracles but we’re so used to seeing them that we call them ordinary things.” Hans Christian Anderson.

Last Saturday was a day filled with ordinary miracles.  Here’s the first:


The woodpeckers are frequent visitors to the balcony and also perhaps the most wary.  Many of the smaller birds appear oblivious to our presence, and indeed to Harri’s.  They come and go with abandon; confident, it would seem, of their safety.  The woodpeckers though, are watchful.  They arrive and sit on the railings or hop back and forth on them, looking around and hesitating.  They don’t appear to be aggressive or territorial and despite their size they make no attempt to hustle the smaller birds away and take their place at the feeder.

We have two sizes of woodpecker visit us.  Same plumage, different size.  I have been undecided whether these are lesser and greater spotteds – two different types of woodpecker – or whether we have a visiting pair.  It does seem that they generally appear in close proximity.  A little research … and I can now reveal that we have only great spotteds.  Even the smallest that I see is larger than the lesser spotted, which is only the size of a house sparrow.  Lesser spotteds have no red under their tail either.  Next I need to check the red on the head and nape.  Red crown: it’s a juvenile still in its autumn plumage.  Black crown, red nape is a male.  Black crown, black nape is a female.  Ha – easy!  A little more observation and I now know we have males and females visiting and the females are the smaller of the two.

Today I witnessed woodpecker wars.  Having said that they seem to be quite wary and non-assertive birds when it comes to using the feeders at least, today both larger and smaller ‘peckers were here together and a great commotion ensued.  The male was giving the female a real ticking off; a verbal barrage of clicks and tuts.  There were no physical attacks but plenty of determined advances, causing the hapless lady to hop backwards or fly to the other end of the balcony in the hope of feeding in peace.  No luck there either though: her disgruntled companion chased her away every time.  She was getting nowhere near the feeders this morning, not while King Woodie was having his breakfast.  Now I know what a woodpecker in a bad mood sounds like.  I’m guessing he’s not a morning sort of guy…


(Credit: RSPB)

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