Ah, the sound of a busy-signal that’s not one. I have mixed emotions about woodpeckers. I love seeing and hearing them. I don’t love seeing them on the trees around RedQuarters, because that often means that we are about to lose either the entire tree, or a large branch. Every tree we lose is between $5,000 and $30,000 property loss. Yes, having shade is that important around here!
So, woodpeckers are busy in this area, as are diesel beavers. You know, chainsaws. Because the neighborhood was developed 60 or so years back, and fast growing trees such as cottonwood [ahCHoo! aka Air Conditioner Killer Tree] and locusts and Siberian elms. Those are dying, as they tend to do after 50-60 years. So we get woodpeckers of various sizes, including the occasional flicker. Flickers are the Godzillas of the woodpecker world, running four or five times as large as the ladder-backs and downeys that normally haunt our suet feeder in winter. No one messes with flickers.
We also have white-wing doves, and now ring-necks. The ring-necks started appearing two years ago, when the Inca doves moved away. Inca doves are small, and like to make piles on windowsills. This drives cats bonkers, because the mound of 8-10 doves doesn’t care about the cat on the other side of the force field. Now we have ring-necks and white wings. White wing doves are large, numerous, and . . . dumb. They make up for lack of intelligence with numbers. They are a “weedy” species, and have led to the household phrase “to be bedoveled.” They will strip a bird feeder in an hour, if given the chance.
Other full-time birds are English sparrows (yawn), house sparrows, house finches (aka “Kool-aid finches” because of their pink coloring), juncos, cardinals, a wren, hummingbirds in summer, mockingbirds, blue jays, and Cooper’s hawks. In summer we get Mississippi kites, a Great Horned Owl, and the gold finches leave. Dad is disgusted with the gold finches, because they come in winter, turn brown, eat our seed, and then leave just as they start turning yellow again. Warblers sometimes come in summer as well, and then we get a few more unusual passers-through on occasion. A few years ago, a loon (yes, the black and white bird from Minnesota) was spotted on one of the regional lakes. Hundreds of people rushed to see it so they could add it to their life-lists. No, I was not one of them.
There are also, alas, great grackles and boat-tailed grackles, and starlings. Last year, the starlings that roost near a certain intersection in town had a “sudden mysterious die off.” [Waits for knowing grins to finish] Yeeeaaaaaahhh, sudden, but not really mysterious for those of us familiar with the area and the species. One wonders if frustration and sanitation concerns reached a peak, leading to the starlings suffering en mass from “un mal digsestif.” Apparently the authorities quickly realized what had transpired, because the mysterious die-off disappeared from the news within a day. I suspect someone from the city had a quiet word with the business owners in that area and a compromise was reached about trees, nets, and starlings.