The Birds of Hough’s Neck, UPDATE!

That wretched woodpecker has been spotted and identified — well, the female half of the pair has been. The other afternoon after I posted my first list of birds, Jim came home and clearly heard the woodpecker drilling away somewhere in the marsh behind us, so loudly and insistently that he agreed he’d go nuts too if he heard that all day long while he was trying to work. So he went to the back bedroom window, which overlooks the marsh, and saw, up on the highest bough of a dead snag, what looked to him like the woodpecking culprit…

…A few minutes squinting through the binoculars proved that it wasn’t the culprit, but it turned out to be the culprit’s better half…He was off pounding his head against a tree, and she was basking in some sunset rays. We listed to each other the identifying characteristics so we could find her in the bird book my mum sent me for my birthday.


Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker (female)

The flicker is a close cousin to the proper woodpecker, in that they drill in to trees to find insect meals, and are also cousin to the sapsuckers, who drill in to living trees to drink the sap and create sap “wells” that attract and trap insects for food (sapsuckers will visit and revisit the sap wells they make to see what new insects have been lured in).

Woodpeckers, flickers, and sapsuckers all drill to find food, but they also use drilling or drumming to communicate with other birds and advertise their ownership in a territory. I am pretty sure the female and her mate are the only ones in our neighborhood, because I haven’t heard competing drumming coming from anywhere. Now that I know exactly what bird is making that sound, the constant drilling doesn’t bother me at all anymore. The fact that they were being so elusive, however, was driving me to aviary distraction…


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