Saturday, November 29, 2008

Woodpeckers, Sparrows and Nuthatches

Hi all! Well, let me start off by saying that we have now moved into the 21st Century! Yep, that's right, we got high-speed Internet! Christmas came a little early this year. Maybe we will be inclined to blog a little more now (since it won't take 5 hrs to post)!

Now, onto the yard! The first thing this morning we noticed a Downy Woodpecker fly into the yard. Then we saw a second one. It's always fun to get a couple of them in the yard at the same time. What happened next, we had never seen before. They both flew into the same apple tree and started "sputtering" vocalizations and (what looked to be) fighting with each other. Then, one of the Downy flattened himself on a limb of the tree and sat absolutely motionless for about 5 minutes, while the other foraged around the tree. Then, both Downy started bobbing their heads up and down, doing a bill-waving dance, practicing a full wing threat displays and fluttering around from limb to limb. This went on for about 15 minutes before they abruptly stopped and flew into another tree and started foraging for insects again.

This is odd to us because this seems to be a mixture of courting/mating rituals and some type of rival/threat behavior. Also, I do know that the male and female Downy Woodpeckers maintain different feeding locations during the winter, but we constantly see the male and female in the yard at the same time. So, we just aren't sure what t think. Has anyone witnessed anything like this? If so, we would love to hear from you.

This has been a busy few days in the yard. We have had First of Season: Golden-Crowned Kinglets, Yellow-Rumped and Townsend's Warbler and Fox Sparrows (pics below)! The Golden-Crowned Kinglets are actually the first ones we have ever seen in our yard! Fun stuff!

On to the pictures...hope you enjoy and good birding to everyone!

Here is the male Downy. He flattened himself on this limb and didn't move at all for 5 minutes. The female is down towards the bottom of the tree (not in view) foraging in the bark.

After becoming active again, this male Downy climbed to the top of this tree branch and started bobbing up and down and splaying his tail feathers.

He did this for quite a few minutes while the other Downy was fluttering around the same tree.

He would stop every once in a while and hold still for 15 or 20 seconds before resuming his odd behavior.

It was incredible to watch. We felt lucky to see this "act".

Here's the male getting closer to the female.

He was still watching her from this perch.

He would not sit still after a while. He kept changing positions and seriously bobbing his head.

"Look at me!! I'm so pretty"!!

Finally, they got close enough to each other for me to get them in the same frame.

This is where they both started bobbing up and down and spreading their wings and tails.

Fluttering from branch to branch.

The male hopped to a branch right above me.

After I took this photo, he flew off into another tree and started acting "normally".

Later, the female came back for more suet.

While she was feeding on one suet block, the male went to another.

We noticed an odd acting "sparrowlike" bird by our bramble pile yesterday. As I got closer, I saw that it was a Fox Sparrow! It's about time!

The can look so much like the Song Sparrow, and yet, so different.

Notice the "diamonds" on the breast. A very tell-tale sign that it's a Fox.

The Fox is also slightly larger than the Song Sparrow.

The Fox and The Song finally decided to get close enough that I could photograph them both at the same time. Thanks guys!

You can start to see their differences. But remember, these are just 2 specimens. Each Song and Fox Sparrow can look so much different than the next.

A very blurry shot of the Golden-Crowned Kinglet. It's the only usable photo that I took of the little spazzes!

One of our bramble-pile Golden-Crowned Sparrows.

The Red-Breasted Nuthatch is always fun to photograph.

So photogenic!
Look at that upturned bill. What a snob!
A Yellow-Rumped Warbler attempting to land on a suet feeder.
It takes him 4 or 5 tried before he seems to feel comfortable enough to land on it.
And here is yet another blurry shot. This is also a Yellow-Rumped Warbler. Me thinks me needs to work on my camera skills!

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Kallen305 said...

I love the photos. You get some really cool birds at your feeder.

It is funny you should mention the golden crowned, I saw my first one yesterday and was googling like mad to figure out what kind of bird it was. I can't believe you were even able to get a picture at all because they are such little spazzes.

Beverly said...

Dang you two, have you been posting your incredible blog and awesome photos with DIAL-UP? Sheeshhhhh, my hat’s off to you! Awesome…

Am I blind or can you tell me what made you think the ‘he’ was a male? Young males have red on the front of their heads, older males have quite a red patch on the back of their heads. This bird seems to have neither…far as I can tell. And sometimes females in lots of birds have a few feathers “of color”.

As it happens, I’m working on a series on woodpeckers…and just read a good bit on Downys; I’d have loved to see that ‘dance’ too. And it IS a dance…very ritualized and territorial. Lucky you!

I read this on NBA-online (an awesome resource):

“Male usually defends a territory against other males, female against females, although apparent territorial defense by a male toward a female was reported (but interpreted as courtship). Both sexes use similar threat displays: tail fanned, crest raised, bill held high and waved back and forth jerkily as if dueling with an invisible foe with a sword.”

Awesome post…I’m really looking forward to your new ‘ease of postings’…you have to feel it’s magical, huh?

Happy Holidays…

Heather said...

Interesting-sounding behavior, for sure, but what I find more interesting are those pictures. I was just reading on the Cornell site that Downy's in the west tend to have less white in their wings, and I would certainly agree - your Downy's look quite different from our Ohio Downy's. It's pretty cool to interact with other FeederWatchers and other birders from across the country and see how our birds differ.

April said...

Oops, I put my comment about the woodpeckers in your Thanksgiving post.

Stephanie said...

Beautiful pics!! Congrats on the upgrade of internet, that will be a big help! I, like the others, can't believe how well you managed w/dial-up! And your camera skills are wonderful, I love looking at your pics.

dAwN said...

Love all the photos and the commentary about the woodpeckers...what cha feeding them in that suet anyway..tee hee..