With all the feeders around here there is naturally a certain amount of bickering among the birds over the best spots. Still, the woodpeckers mostly eat suet and peanuts, the finches eat thistle seed and sunflower seed and the hummingbirds sip nectar. Yesterday that all changed when I observed a Gila woodpecker dangling from the hummingbird feeder on the patio! Twice within the last 2 weeks I have had to pick the nectar feeder up from off the patio floor. I didn’t know how this had happened, but the sugary nectar created a sticky mess all over the cement. Now the mystery was solved. I watched as the Gila woodpecker grasped the thin perch that encircled the feeder from beneath. His posture reminded me of a bat clinging to a cave wall. Then, he curled his body up over the edge, cocked his head just so, extended his neck in an arc and with his bill barely reaching the plastic flower, he proceeded to sip nectar from one of the ports.
Quietly I called to Gus to come and see. He was able to watch from the picture window in the great room. We watched dumbfounded as the woodpecker stuck his tongue in and out of the tiny port drinking nectar. I could actually see the nectar level falling the longer he clung there and drank. A Costa’s hummingbird flew down and scolded him, but still he clung and drank. Then another Gila woodpecker flew over and chased the first one away and quickly took over the feeder for himself! I would have loved to get a picture, but I knew if I moved the birds would fly off and I wouldn’t be able to witness this moment.
This morning dawned cold and clear. The forecast was for a low of 29 degrees but at 8 a.m. the thermometer under the patio read 32 degrees. I replenished all my feeders yesterday but I noticed the birds flying in to the birdbath for a drink seemed unable to get one. I knew I had just filled the bird bath yesterday, so I wondered why there was no water. A look through my binoculars revealed why. The water was frozen! Poor birds! It was just after sunrise so I quickly dressed and went out to thaw the birdbath. It wasn’t easy. I set it on its end in the sunshine and poured two gallons of warm water over the ice before it melted. Then, I positioned it back on its pedestal and refilled it with warm water. I was barely back in the door before the birds were landing on the brim and drinking once again. Later this morning when Gus was out doing errands he called me from his cell phone to tell me he had just heard the following statement on a local radio station: You know your kids were born in Tucson when they get excited about seeing the birdbath frozen in the morning! Well, I’m not a kid and I wasn’t born in Tucson, but it did add a bit of drama to the day!
The fiercest fighters are the hummingbirds. They guard the feeders diligently and buzz off any contenders. It matters not to them if I am outside or not. They swoop past my ears in a fury if another humming bird gets near. I’ve seen the hummingbirds position themselves as lookout on the mesquite tree or even on dry stems in my flower pots. On female Costa’s has staked out a post on the verbena near the kitchen window. She sits with her back to the glass and darts her head from side to side in a sweep of the surrounding territory. If another hummingbird appears, she flies into attack mode and they buzz off together into the wash.