Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

On napping woodpeckers

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird biology, Bird personalities, Birding equipment Updated: March 2, 2010 - 10:23 AM

One Pileated Woodpecker stands out from the four known to visit our suet feeder. It began standing out yesterday when, after a few pecks at the suet, it hitched itself up the tree trunk and went to sleep. I assume it was napping, its eyes shut, neck scrunched between its shoulders, feathers fluffed against the cold. I can watch (and photograph) these birds from our bedroom windows. The woodpecker stayed in place for about 20 minutes, raising its head and opening its eyes only when other woodpeckers feeding on the suet (Hairy, Downy) disturbed it. Have you ever wondered what birds do when they’re not eating, eating being the thing they do? Well, this woodpecker naps, at least some of the time. He did it again this morning, same time (around 8:30), same place, same 20 minutes. I appreciate his napping, it being a choice of mine, too, but 20 minutes is a bit short for me. Our feeders are busy much of the day, except for mid-afternoon, when things become very quiet. I assume some naps are taking place.

I wish I knew how old this woodpecker is. Pileateds can live for as long as nine years. A dog year for age comparison with us is what, seven human years? So a Pileated year would be nine or so (figuring us living 80 years), although the sample used to determine this figure was small. Scientists figure potential longevity for this species is in double figures. You determine age by banding a recent hatchling, then recovering it years later, slim odds on that. Or, you can time a captive bird. Radio-tagged birds have demonstrated mortality in their first year of about 60 percent. Getting to nine Pileated years is harder for them than for us. But naps might help. Below, our sleeping beauty.

 

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