When my son was a little boy, his name for Woody Woodpecker, the cartoon character, was Woody Pecker. Funny, but when one of our children misnamed something like that, it stuck. Grits, today, are “grips”, a la my youngest, Laura, and biscuits are “bisticks, as my oldest, Angelin, said as a child. So when we see a woodpecker in the backyard or at the feeder, it’s a woody pecker.
I believe my favorite among the woodpecker family is the little Downy Woodpecker. This, of course, is a small woodpecker with an all-white belly and black and white spotted wings. The friendly little birds have a black line running through the eye area, short black bills, and the males have a distinct red mark on the back of the head. The females look just like the guys except no red spot.
Our Downy Woodpeckers are year round residents. They love peanuts, sunflower hearts and they enjoy squeezing through the wires of the suet cages and dining to their hearts’ content. The Downy’s are not people shy. They will often fly to the suet feeders when we re just 5 or 6 feet away. Downy Woodpeckers eat insects, seeds and nuts. They lay 3 to 5 eggs in cavities in trees and have one brood yearly. We have lots of dead or dying trees in our yard, which likely attracts these small woodpeckers.
One of the very interesting things about these “woody peckers” is that they will “drum” on a log or tree branch like a ruffed grouse, in an attempt to attract a mate. Drumming means rapidly flapping the wings against the wood to make a low-pitched but far-reaching sound.
Listen for them this spring. You may just hear the soft drum of a Downy Woodpecker.