Sunday, June 17, 2012

Red-bellied Beggars

Red-bellied Takeout and Delivery
For some years now we have been treated to the sight of a red-bellied woodpecker taking seeds from the feeder to share with another bird.  Being an anthropomorphic minded romantic I would say "Oh, isn't that sweet," and I would think about taking Barb out to dinner some day.

What we didn't notice was the fact that the mottled recipient had no red markings.  Males have a red crown and nape while females have half a crown, the red not extending forward to the bill.  It was not the female but a juvenile woodpecker.  

The fledglings follow the parents around for food.  They are old enough to borrow the car but are unable to get their own food.  The beggar would hang around on a nearby branch and wait for the parent to bring sunflower seeds either into its mouth or laid on a branch between them.

Male and Juvenile
Surprisingly none of the online authoritative sources or many bird books we have mention this behavior.  Confirmation only came through a long Googling session.   This Youtube video shows a patient father feeding junior who is hanging on to the same feeder tray, easily able to reach the food.  Whether it hasn't figured out how to use its beak or is just lazy is up for debate.

As the young fly further from the nest, they continue to stay near the parents, getting fed for up to ten weeks.  Eventually the parents have to drive them away to fend for themselves.  This may sound familiar to some of you parents.

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