Bird Watcher's General Store

Downies Like Hummer Solution - 08/03/01


Dear Bird Folks,

I'm having great luck with my oriole feeder. Last May I had lots of orioles eating from it. When the orioles left, the hummingbirds moved in. Last Sunday, three Downy Woodpeckers took over the feeder. I didn't know that woodpeckers liked drinking hummingbird food. My boyfriend says that the woodpeckers must be eating too much dry wood. Is this normal?

South Orleans

Hello?

I knew things had gotten expensive in South Orleans, but I didn't know people could no longer afford names. Maybe we should have a fund raiser. Downies coming to a hummingbird feeder is pretty rare. I've read about it, but you are the first person around here to tell me about it.

In the Southwest, Acorn Woodpeckers are very common at hummingbird feeders, but it doesn't seem to happen too much here in the East. Why are they coming to your feeder? Your boyfriend says because they are "eating too much dry wood." Yeah, that sounds like something a boyfriend would say. He must be thinking of beavers.

I guess we shouldn't be too surprised at your observation. Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers (yes, there really is such a bird), also a woodpecker, drill shallow holes in trees and eat the sweet sap that flows out. Other birds will also stop and have a sap snack if they find sapsucker holes. Sap also attracts insects and most birds love insects. Since Downy Woodpeckers would rather eat insects, perhaps it was the insects coming to your sticky feeder that got the Downy's attention. Then, after eating the insects, the woodpeckers discovered your feeder was full of "sap" and the chowfest was on. Since you had three Downies at one time, I think that you probably had a newly hatched family coming to your feeder and they all were benefiting from the first woodpecker's discovery.

I wonder how often or how long the woodpeckers will continue coming to your feeder. And, it will be interesting to see if they remember and return to your feeder next year. Keep us posted, Miss South Orleans. With the orioles, the hummingbirds and the woodpeckers, you have one really cool feeder going. You are very lucky and everything is, indeed, normal.

However, I'd keep an eye on that boyfriend if I were you.



Artwork by Catherine Clark


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