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Winter Wildlife: Woodpeckers
Get out those binoculars and field guides and plan an
hour or a day to explore Michigan's fourth season. Winter wildlife viewing
offers uncrowded parks and forested trails. This season offers you views into a
woodland unbroken by foliage and filled with the calls and sightings some of
Michigan's noisiest residents, the woodpeckers. Michigan is home to eight
species of woodpeckers. Two of the most common are the downy and hairy
Hardwood and mixed hardwood and coniferous forests are
home to the easily spotted little Downy woodpecker; North America's smallest
woodpecker. It's field markings are distinct, with a small body, white back,
and black and white stripped wing bars. The sharply pointed black bill, is used
in territorial posturing. Listen for it's fast series of "pick"
Its larger look-a-like is the Hairy woodpecker, another
white and black bird. To distinguish the two look at the bird's bill. If the
bill is as long as the head, you are looking at a hairy woodpecker. A bill
shorter than the length of the head belongs to the "downy."
"Hairies" are found in woodland swamps, old apple orchards, and mixed
coniferous/hardwood stands. Snags are a favorite roosting place.
birds share common characteristics: males have a red feathered head cap and
retractable sticky tongues which are ideal for retrieving insects from holes.
They can also be easily attracted within viewing distance from your home. Suet
mixed with bird seed provides a good energy rich food source that attracts these
two Michigan residents. Don't be surprised to see a few other species of
woodpeckers at the same feeding station.