Friday, March 21, 2008

downy nest

It’s difficult for me to imagine digging a hole in the side of a tree with my mouth. I have enough trouble dissecting an ear of corn, but to drill a perfectly round hole just big enough to slip my entire body into, that’s a remarkable feat.

A male downy woodpecker spent several hours today working on a nest hole very close to my suet feeder. He’s setting up a territory; and after the excavation of the nest cavity, he’ll attempt to attract the attention of a female. He’ll drum, call, fluff up his feathers, that sort of thing; strut his stuff. You know how guys are. If a female notices the suet feeder, she may realize he has also chosen an excellent piece of real estate.

It’s hard to determine if this is a first-time nester or an older bird. This early in the season is an indication that it’s an older male. (Older downies nest earlier.) If it is an older male, he will more than likely renew his pair-bond with last year’s mate, providing she survived the winter. They have a shared history, a familiarity that will prove beneficial in raising a family. It's a long process that requires teamwork, at least with downies. (Female hummingbirds raise their broods alone.)

If the male downy attracts a mate, this could get interesting.


Vickie said...

How very special to be able to watch this downy re-establish family life. About that suet feeder. My suet block was completely gone after a day of 70 degree weather. Being new in the suet feeding world, I assumed it melted rather than attribute it to voracious birds. Are suet days past us now?

Stephen Lyn Bales said...

Hello Vickie. No, the suet days are not over. I keep out suet most of the year. I only stop during the hottest days of summer,after nesting season and when there are plenty of insects out and about. (Suet is a substitute source of fats and proteins found in insects) I use both homemade and store-bought suet cakes.

It's important to keep it out in spring because birds are raising families and need all the food they can find. I am hopeful that the downy nest becomes an active one, so that I can watch the birds come and go form my suet as they feed their young.

Your suet should not have disappeared that quickly. I suspect you had either a squirrel (during the day) or raccoon (at night) visit your buffet. I’ve had both and it took me a long time to figure out a place and a way of keeping my suet away from those guys. A raccoon can easily eat an entire suet cake during one visit. Yum!

Patty said...

Another good idea this time of year is the Calcium Care Suet Dough. It promotes strength in the eggshells of nesting birds. You can find it at your local bird specialty store. And most suet these days is put through a rendering process that keeps it from melting up to about 140 degrees! So I also suspect a raccoon got to your suet, Vickie!
Great column, Lyn!

BriteCloud said...

I can't believe that perfectly round hole! Are you sure he's not hiding a compass in there or something? Under his wing?

I love woodpeckers. What a treat to have one to watch. Keep us updated on his family.

Stephen Lyn Bales said...

Yes. The hole is amazingly round. The woodpecker worked on the nest cavity for hours yesterday. He was joined by a female downy that helped him.

You should be able to find calcium care suet as well as seed with added calcium carbonate at stores like Wild Birds Unlimited.