We live in the country with acreage around. Birds are, in general, a blessed part of life adding mostly cheery song, some flashes of color and insect protection to the yard. We use bird feeders to supplement diets and provide our own entertainment from those who visit. (Today I saw the first Hummingbird for the season!)
I’ve never kept an official bird list but I do know many of our visitors. Some of the more interesting ones belong to the woodpecker family: Northern Flicker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, the little Downy Woodpecker and the large Pileated Woodpecker. This last one was an uncommon and thrilling visitor who demolished some aging stumps for us a few years ago.
The Cornell lab of Ornithology is a wonderful resource for identifying birds and learning about their lives. They also have several nest cams. I watched Red-tailed Hawks and Great Blue Herons today. But back to my story…
We have several old and large Leatherleaf Viburnum near the house. Very early this spring, I noticed that some of the stalks sported brown leaves, a bad sign in an evergreen. As more brown leaves appeared we inspected the shrubs and saw neatly arranged holes and rectangular gouges. We took a section to a garden center and the manager identified the damage as the work of a sapsucker, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker! Isn’t this amazing! The rectangular holes are called sapwells and I learned that these woodpeckers have specialized brush tipped tongues to lap up the sap and and any insects that might be in it. They also feed on the inner part of the tree or woody shrub. If the holes girdle the branch or trunk, it is likely that it will die. We have a bit of work ahead of us pruning and clearing away the calling cards left by our visitors – shy visitors I never saw!