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Peanutizing the Boudoir

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sitting out in the rain is one thing; poking food in every nook and cranny of your roost snag is another. I feel sometimes like I'm documenting some pretty maladaptive behavior on Garrett's part. I call it Peanutizing the Boudoir.

It's natural for a red-headed woodpecker to store food against a rainy (or icy or snowy) day. But really, Garrett--there are so many places to put it--do you really want to poke peanuts, Zick dough and sunflower hearts all over your bedroom tree?

I think about a mouse or opossum climbing up the tree. Or, on one of these rainy warm nights, gack! a raccoon. Snuffling around for food in the rotty wood and reaching in Garrett's cavity and...

I can't even think about it.

Garrett doesn't worry. He just keeps finding new places for roasted peanuts.  You can see one just above the sawn-off branch stub. He'll have to go around back to store the one he's got now.

Garrett is pretty bossy about peanuts and Zick dough. He lets the other woodpeckers eat them sometimes. Other times he chases them on merry flashing flights around the yard. Garrett tried suet when he first hit the yard almost two weeks ago and didn't much like it, so the hairy and downy woodpeckers (hairy on left, downy on right) resort to eating a lot more suet now, because Garrett will let them.

 I watch a downy woodpecker doing something I've seen hairy and red-bellied and now red-headed woodpeckers do. When they're processing a food item, and they're trying not to drop it, they'll extend the folded wings to try to contain it. It's a little like a hawk mantling its prey, but the wings are kept folded. It reminds me of someone trying to catch something between their knees when their hands are occupied. I was happy to get these shots of the behavior.

See how the wing is dropped to help contain the peanut? I'm reminded that birds do every amazing thing they do without the help of hands. Just a bill and feet, and sometimes wings standing in for hands.

Which includes excavation. Garrett continues to enlarge his bedroom every day.  


gak gak gak

It's easier for him to get in and out now.

and out he swings in one smooth motion.

He's not as vocal as he'd be were there other red-headed woodpeckers around to talk to, but occasionally I hear Garrett sounding off. The only call he's used is a rolling Kwirrrrr Kwirrrrr. I caught him in what looked like an advertising display yesterday.

He sat for a long time looking out of the cavity, then emerged and puffed his head feathers up until his head looked like a red rubber ball.

All puffed out, he swung side to side in exaggerated arcs, calling Kwirr Kwirr Kwirrr as he reached each side.

It really looked like cavity advertisement to me. Please, Garrett, if you're trying to attract a mate, not there. I'd have to put electric fencing around the dang tree. And you know I would.

Right after the display, I got my first and so far only nice flight shot. Mmmmm. It takes bright sunlight and a quick trigger finger to get that. Remember I'm standing atop my computer table with my elbows on the windowsill, shooting at an angle through double-pane glass. It's not ideal, but then neither am I.

I'm getting the most out of Garrett, because he's the Mostest Bird.**

**Anyone remember Man o' War, the "mostest hoss?" Well, Garrett's like that to me.


I wish he had a taller sturdier home. Seems awfully close to the ground but then they pick what they like. Have lots of old trees with dead limbs on them. One was being used by a woodpecker. Major storm one night...and I find the limb on the ground with dead bird inside. Really was a shame. So I guess safety is fleeting in nature.

Fantastic! Glad you're not ignoring your new love. Hope that he really settles in with more to follow.

-- Nick

Posted by Anonymous January 31, 2012 at 5:13 AM

I really enjoy your Garrett documentary :-)

Is it typical for male red-headed woodpeckers to make a nest of sorts for their prospective?

So typical of us human beings, eh? We conjure up the worst case scenarios in our mind (our worst enemy sometimes!) and worry about them regardless of whether they happen or not.

We could learn a lot from the wildlife kingdom. :-)

Posted by Anonymous January 31, 2012 at 11:40 AM

It makes me smile to see how much Garrett makes you smile.

I am really, really enjoying your Garrett posts. My roommate and I are experiencing a similar enchantment with the porcupine who's taken up residence in the trees outside our apartment (this afternoon I spent a long time taking photos of his tracks, gnaw marks, etc. so I can get a blog post about him up tomorrow afternoon).

Additionally, I just got a copy of Letters From Eden, the first book of yours that I've read - what a joy to read. Thank you.

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Thanks for blogging about Garrett. It's so wonderful to get to share the lives of wild animals and see how they actually live.

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