Not knowing exactly what an immature red-headed woodpecker looks like, I went to one of my favorite birding sites, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and found the perfect photo of one by a Mr. Kevin T. Karlson. Also there, I learned some groovy things about RHW’s. Their favorite food is grasshoppers, and they store them alive “wedged into crevices to tightly that they cannot escape.” That’s pretty cool, unless you’re a grasshopper that is.
Red-headed woodpeckers are extremely territorial. You may recall from my original post some months ago how The Sentry would dive bomb any and all hapless squirrels, blue jays and cats that happened to get too close. According to Cornells’ page, we can expect anywhere between 4-7 eggs, provided all works out according to my wishes.
Imagine my curiosity when yesterday during my gardening frenzy I hear an odd sound coming from The Sentry’s tree. Glancing up I see the fluttering of wings close to the nest hole. Once I got my camera with its zoom lens in position, I fired off various shots to enlarge to ID the bird. I wasn’t familiar with its call. It wasn’t a song, or a chirp, or a warble. It was very unusual. Is this an immature red-headed woodpecker…already? By the size it would be a "teenage" RHW. I can't imagine a teenager red-headed aggressive-territorial woodpecker knowing what I know from living with my OWN teenager, but I digress.
It’s a starling. A basic, b-flat starling. But what is it doing up there? It was fluttering around the nest hole – above it, really, on the broken part of the branch. Back to Cornell Lab of Ornithology for a lesson in european starlings. First off, Cornell describes their sound as a “quiet series of rattles and whistled notes.” That is a perfect description of what I heard. Here I learn that starlings are cavity-nesting birds and are fierce competitors for nest holes, even expelling native species. Cornell goes on to say so far only sapsuckers seem to be on the decline due to these non-native birds.