Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Professional

I hang a suet block in a little cage from a limb of the maple a few steps from my door. A number of different birds visit it, including several woodpeckers, or similar. Many of them have become tolerant of sharing the block, allowing another bird to feed from the other side -- as long as s/he is not right in their face. And they line up on the branch, taking turns. If someone is taking too long on the block, they may get pushed off, but patience seems the general order.

This will give you an idea of the incredible reaction times and speed of these guys. The suet hangs only about 5 Ft. (1.6m) above the ground. I have seen, say, a Nuthatch, lose a piece of suet and fly down to catch it before it hits the ground. By my calculation, that works out to a little over ½ second to estimate if it can be caught and then fly down to catch it before it hits the ground. I'm impressed!

The normal feeding mode is peck, peck, nibble, nibble. But not the Red-bellied Woodpecker. When s/he swoops in, being a bit larger, the others vacate. Chop, chop, chop -- and s/he flies off with a big chunk.

It's always a pleasure to watch a professional at work.


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