Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pecking Order

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For the past few days, a gorgeous male Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker has been visiting our suet feeder. It was just about this time last year that a Sapsucker, perhaps the same one, settled in our yard for a few weeks. The bird defended “his” suet vigorously against all comers, as I reported here: http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/2009/01/feeder-watch-woodpecker-wars.html. This year’s bird displays exactly the same behavior; there’s a good chance it is the same individual.

D asked me today if the Sapsucker was still at the top of the pecking order. Yes, it chases away the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, stands its ground when the Red-Bellied tries to get to the suet, and even scares off all the Blue Jays except one big one, which simply lands on the suet feeder and forces the Sapsucker off.

Early this afternoon I looked out at the tangle of poison ivy and bittersweet that hangs between two trees on the side of the yard; I’ve spotted a Hermit Thrush and the Sapsucker feeding there in the past few weeks, as well as the expected Robins. I wondered if there were any Northern Mockingbirds still lingering…and about a half hour later I saw one, posted like a sentinel in front of the berry-loaded vines. The Mockingbird chased off every bird that tried to grab a berry, even, a second Sapsucker (a female) that flew from across the yard and tried to get in to the center of the poison ivy vines. (Sapsuckers like to eat fruit, too.) There was a small scuffle, after which the Mockingbird returned to its post and the Sapsucker flew away into the neighbor’s yard. It seems that in the berry vines, anyway, the Mockingbird rules the roost.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers seem to be increasing in our part of the state. Keep an eye out for these plump, quiet, woodpeckers. They are very beautiful.

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