Q: A red-bellied woodpecker has been taking sunflower seeds from our feeder, then flying to the roof and hiding them under the shingles. One day he made more than 30 trips, which strikes me as unusual, since I didn't know they eat sunflower seeds or that they stash food.

A: That's an interesting obseheld firmly rvation of this medium-sized woodpecker with the nearly invisible red wash on its stomach. Its diet typically is made up of insects, seeds and fruit and they hide some for later consumption in all kinds of places. Your roof's shingles must seem like a perfect spot — the seeds become invisible to other birds once he tucks them underneath. Red-bellieds are birds of the South that have gradually pushed northward over the past 100 years and now are a familiar sight in our woodlands and at feeders.

Chewed up housing

Q: We put two decorative birdhouses in the backyard and they were occupied the first year, but now both entry doors look like they've been chewed around the edges, which allows larger birds to get inside. Do you know what may have caused this?

A: The finger points to woodpeckers, most likely downy woodpeckers, using your nest boxes as places to sleep at night. They can't seem to stop themselves from pecking at the entrance hole and the circulation holes while inside, thereby enlarging these and allowing large birds and cold rain to enter. I have this same problem on my bluebird trail with downy woodpeckers occupying nearly all of the 14 boxes at night. I've purchased metal "portal protectors" at my local wild bird store — when placed around the entrance hole, these stop woodpeckers in their tracks. If the miscreants are, instead, squirrels, the metal doorway protectors stop them, as well.

Nutty nuthatch

Q: My husband was sitting on our deck and a nuthatch landed, hopped across the deck onto his shoe, then climbed up his pants leg and perched on his knee, before eventually flying off. Could this have been a youngster exploring its territory?

A: I loved your tale about the nutty nuthatch, and I think you're right on target. This almost surely was a young bird who hadn't yet developed a firm idea of what is dangerous and what isn't.

St. Paul resident Val Cunningham, who volunteers with the St. Paul Audubon Society and writes about nature for local, regional and national newspapers and magazines, can be reached at valwrites@comcast.net.