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Beautiful Woodpeckers

Monday, November 12, 2007

Among my favorite birds to paint are woodpeckers. I love their markings, their colors, their bold architecture, and most of all their head and bill shapes. They seem to draw themselves.

Who’s this, hitching up the side of the studio birch?What else could it be?? A juvenile female yellow-bellied sapsucker. She’s got a bindhi of ruby on her forehead, but her throat will stay white.She’s been punishing my poor birch tree, drilling row after row of sap holes. It’s a wonder the thing doesn’t just break in half. What a mess!

I had to marvel at the perfection of her camouflage. Could she blend in any better with the wounds she’s wrought on the birch trunk? Even her eye looks like a sap hole.She’s not the only birch torturer, though. The red-breasted nuthatches are using sapsucker wells as a place to bash their sunflower seeds until the hulls come off. I can almost hear the birch saying ow ow ow ow. Sick trees give more sap, and the sapsuckers know that. I read a study calling them “victim trees.” The more woodpeckers bang on them, the more high-quality sap they give, until one fine day they just up and croak. Nice.Does anyone NOT love flickers? I remember getting pretty annoyed with them when I was a kid growing up in Richmond, Virginia, the way they drilled on the downspout early on summer mornings when I was still trying to get my 12 hours of shuteye. Oh, how I wish they were still that common. And how I wish I could still sleep until 1 PM.

This little gal seemed to want to be photographed from every angle.

Be sure to get my red chevron.And my crescent chest.
Ahh, flickers. How lucky are we to have such an ornate and lovely woodpecker still among our avifauna.


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