Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the hairy woodpecker.
Woodpeckers peck at trees to uncover insects or sap and to communicate, and this attractive black and white bird is a pro. Hairys mainly eat insects and especially favor the larvae of wood-boring and bark beetles, making them important controls of these pest outbreaks. They will also show up at feeders to eat suet and sunflower seeds.
Hairys announce their presence with a loud, sharp peep. Their black wings are edged with white spots and their black heads are cut by two white facial stripes. The underside is a soft white. They are named for the long, white feathers that form a patch in the middle of the back. Long, stiff tail feathers balance these birds against the trunks of trees. Males sport a red patch on the back of the head.
A hairy woodpecker lookalike is the smaller downy woodpecker. Downys average 6.5 inches while hairys average 9 inches. The short, stubby beak of the downy is tiny when compared to the bill of the hairy, which is nearly as long as its head. Remembering the phrase “huge hairy, dinky downy” helps to keep these differences in mind.
Woodpeckers pound their heads against trees with forces that would cause concussions in us. Built-in shock absorbers help dampen the blows and are one example of the amazing adaptations that birds employ to survive in our world.
For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.

This story was posted on December 2, 2018.