WHERE TO WATCH?

Bird Watching (UK) - - Species Woodpeckers -

stud­ies record­ing these lar­vae mak­ing up about 80% of the chicks’ diet (plus reg­u­lar pre­dated tit nestlings and other spe­cials). Wood­peck­ers usu­ally bring up to four items each time they visit the nest, rather than just the sin­gle cater­pil­lar de­liv­ered by a par­ent tit, mak­ing their days less fre­netic than those of the smaller birds. But, if they feed in the way that I ob­served that day, they are just as zest­ful, per­haps ex­cited by the sheer vol­ume of food. The more I watched, the more in­di­vid­ual birds I saw feeding in the same ef­fer­ves­cent fashion. Take Chaffinches. Most of us are used to see­ing these birds on flocks on the wood­land floor, or by hedgerows and on the gar­den lawn, where they hop on the ground with their pe­cu­liar, chicken-like gait. They never ap­pear to be overly hur­ried here – they for­age as if they were park-keep­ers wan­der­ing around desul­to­rily pick­ing up lit­ter. A study found that, in the course of a year Chaffinches ac­quire 80% of food on the ground. Up here in the canopy, though, they are dif­fer­ent an­i­mals en­tirely. Here Chaffinches utilise their long tails to trans­mo­grify into aer­o­bat­ics ex­perts. Up here you can see them try­ing that same fly-catch­ing ma­noeu­vre that the Great Spot­ted Wood­pecker tried, hope­fully with a lit­tle more el­e­gance and suc­cess. Up here they will be­come ac­com­plished hov­er­ers, some­times hold­ing their po­si­tion in the air at a branch tip to dis­lodge a cater­pil­lar or aphid, like un­gainly hum­ming­birds. Up here they will snap at moths hang­ing by silk, and even if they miss they might catch one by mis­take. They will also be­come am­a­teur Treecreep­ers, hold­ing on to the bark fis­sures as they glean from the sur­face. Food is ev­ery­where, so they try ev­ery­thing. If you go down to the woods to­day, you will in­deed ex­pe­ri­ence a lull on the ground floor. But lift your head and your ex­pec­ta­tions, be­cause there is some­thing about the canopy air in a for­est in the mid­dle of sum­mer. Go up there and you might see some­thing you don’t nor­mally see. And, if you’re any­thing like a wood­pecker or a Chaffinch, you might do some­thing you don’t nor­mally do. Watch out; it might be in­fec­tious. If you go down to the woods to­day... The Great Spot­ted Wood­pecker can be found in wood­land with ma­ture broad-leaved trees or, al­ter­na­tively, with ma­ture conifers. Com­mon in England and Wales, they may visit peanut feeders and birdta­bles dur­ing the win­ter months, though these are alert and cau­tious birds. Seen all year round where com­mon. Not found in the far north of Scot­land and only a hand­ful of pairs nest in Ire­land. Cater­pil­lars of sawflies and moths are great sources of en­ergy for grow­ing wood­pecker chicks A male Great Spot­ted Wood­pecker re­turns to the nest with many cater­pil­lars, like a Puf­fin with a beak full of sand eels SPECIES FAC­TFILE

It won’t sur­prise you to hear that Great Spot­ted Wood­peck­ers in de­cid­u­ous wood­land typ­i­cally feed their young on cater­pil­lars BAG OF PRO­TEIN BEAKFUL

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