Date: 3/14/17 12:00 am
From: Jonathan Berman <jonadayberman...>
Subject: [obol] Re: Woodpecker and jay behavior
I'm new to this listserv, and I haven't spent much time with acorn
woodpeckers in Oregon. However, some years ago, when I lived in the
Southern California mountains, I got to observe their behavior towards
other birds regularly. One year, two acorn woodpeckers came to my yard
almost every day (I didn't try to determine their sexes). Seemingly their
sole interest in being there was to harass birds from species they deemed
worthy of harassment when they came to my suet/sunflower seed feeder. The
offending species included Steller's jays (the only corvids in the area,
not counting ravens), hairy and white-headed woodpeckers, and flickers.
They did not go after black-headed grosbeaks, robins, band-tailed pigeons,
or smaller birds – or squirrels.

The acorn woodpeckers occasionally visited the feeder but did not show any
sustained interest in it as a source of food. They were part of a coalition
of at least a dozen birds that managed a large acorn granary in a ponderosa
pine some distance from my house. Steller's jays might sometimes eat
granary acorns, but I don't think the other woodpeckers did, as far as I
could tell, though they might well have frequented the pines where
granaries were located.

The two miscreants' routine was to select two perches 10-15 feet above
ground positioned they could approach the feeder at right angles to each
other. They would wait for their selected species to come to the feeder –
then one woodpecker flew directly toward the target bird while the second
waited until it started to fly away and then went after it. Sometimes a
potential target bird would show up, look around, apparently see the acorns
on their perches, and take off without attempting to feed. Especially given
the appearance of acorn woodpeckers, it was hard not to get the feeling
that they found this endlessly entertaining. They often used the roof of my
house for one of their perches and indolently drilled a few exploratory
granary holes under the eaves when there was no other action. This show
went on for days, weeks, months ... I think it stopped when nesting season
came around.

Jonathan Berman

St Johns, Portland

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