The na­ture of things

Green wood­pecker

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook - Edited by Vic­to­ria Marston Il­lus­tra­tions by Bill Dono­hoe

IN a dry sea­son, as we have largely en­joyed so far this year, ants are very busy— some­thing that pleases the char­ac­ter­ful green wood­pecker, for whom ants are by far his chief source of food. Whether for­ag­ing on the wood­land floor, in the trees or on the short turf of lawns or open pas­ture, Pi­cus viridis, also known as the yaf­fle, is ready to flick out his long, whip-like tongue and mop up ants and their lar­vae by the hun­dreds. In­deed, it’s been es­ti­mated that a nest­ful of six or seven yaf­fle chicks will con­sume some 1.5 mil­lion ants and pu­pae be­fore they fledge.

Some­times, you might see green wood­peck­ers on tree trunks, but they’re in­fre­quent ‘drum­mers’, al­though the nest is placed in a tree hole, gen­er­ally ex­ca­vated by the male. More fre­quently, these shy and wary birds are seen in flight, which is very dis­tinc­tive: a low and reg­u­larly bouncy gait, sug­gest­ing an air­craft car­ry­ing a heavy load in its un­der­car­riage that avoids be­ing dragged down­wards by re­peated ster­ling ef­forts to re­gain height. This is of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by a shriek­ing ‘laugh’, the pierc­ing squeals fired out in rapid suc­ces­sion.

Charm­ing but wary, these birds are eas­ily seen, be­ing bright olive-lime green over the back and wings, more creamy down the front, with a lemon-yel­low rump and a strik­ing black face, all topped by a scar­let cap. KBH

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.