Woodpeckers Feeding Their Young

#30DaysWild no 18. The Great Spotted Woodpecker has brought its baby to the Wheatland Farm bird feeders. Here’s a clip of the adult collecting some food and taking it to feed the young bird waiting in the relative safety of the vegetation.

Woodpeckers herald the spring – their drumming is one of the first markers of the warmer weeks as March gives way to April in Devon. We hear them around the lodges, and they seem to particularly like the telegraph poles on our border.

Now we’re in June, and they’ve already raised a family. Here’s the proof. The adult has been busy visiting the feeders in recent days and flying swiftly off. Until now it has been taking the food back to the nest. Now the fledgling – well this one at least – has come along too.

This is Dad putting food in the chicks mouth – you can tell by the red nape on the back of his head. Female Great Spotted Woodpeckers don’t have red on their heads, and the juveniles lose that red patch on top as they mature.

In 2019 we found a woodpecker nest on the edge of Popehouse Moor, in a dead tree. We’re not sure quite where the nest is this year, but the birds usually head northeast from the farmhouse. That’s a bit surprising, as they need woodland, but they might also be nesting in a hedgerow tree somewhere.

They seem to be getting plenty of food at the feeder. However, mostly they are insect eaters, searching out grubs in dead wood and spearing them with an amazing tongue that can dart out a full 4cm beyond the tip of their beak. But they have a darker side too – they will raid other nests and take eggs or even young nestlings. Sometimes they’ll even widen up the entrance hole in a bird box to get in.

Previously for #30DaysWild

This time last year: we were looking up some recently spotted moths.

This time in 2019: We were visiting the cows that do our conservation grazing. This year they’re already installed in the turbine field.

This time in 2018: Sawfly caterpillars were munching their way through the yellow flag at the Wheatland Farm wildlife pond

This time in 2017: Euan was having a bit of a Zen moment with the pebbles at Westward Ho beach.