I’ve been watching with amusement as a new bird in the yard tries to figure out the best strategy for approaching the bird feeders.
I know there’s a period of adjustment each time you put out a new feeder and usually a week goes by before the backyard flyers use it on a regular basis.
This is the first time, however, I’ve seen such a confused and awkward bird.
The first time I saw Klutz he swooped into the platform feeder like an out-of-control plane on an airport runway. Big and gangly, this Red-bellied Woodpecker nearly skidded out the opposite side before he came to a stop. He landed only briefly before being startled by another bird that dropped gracefully into the feeder.
I didn’t see him again for a few more days and when I did, he approached the Brome Peanut+ feeder (far left on the bird feeder live stream) with the same kamikaze-style of landing. He smashed into it more than landed on it and bounced right off. I saw him do it again a short time later with the same unsuccessful results.
Now Klutz is about the same size as his woodpecker cousin, the Northern Flicker, that makes a regular appearance at this same feeder, but he can’t seem to figure it out. I actually felt a little sorry for him after watching a few misguided attempts.
He gave up on the Peanut+ and set his sights on the peanut wreath feeder beside it. Klutz managed to land successfully on the inner ring but then was scared away when it started to swing from side to side.
I’m not sure if he went back to his nest or a nearby tree and regrouped – I have this image of him plotting like Wile E .Coyote from the old Looney Tune cartoons, drawing diagrams of different approaches – but he returned to try it again.
His next plan involved him flying underneath it and almost hovering for a couple of seconds while he tried to pluck out a peanut. The first couple of times, he left empty-handed because he couldn’t maintain the fluttering in place for long or a possessive Blue Jay would swoop in, guarding what it perceived to be its own personal treasure chest of peanuts.
I practically cheered the first day he flew away with a nut clamped tightly between his beak. And then, sure enough, he was scoring one almost every time he flew by, unless of course, nut blocked by a shrieking blue-feathered harridan.
Feeling more confident, Klutz is now flying under the wreath and grabbing on. He’ll stay there for minutes at a time, hammering away at the shells of the peanuts and gobbling down the treats tucked away inside.
I’m wondering how long it’s going to take him to figure out it’s so much easier to just feed at the Peanut+. It’s built for woodpeckers with a lip along the bottom to tuck their tail feather on and the nuts inside are already out of the shell.
Given how long it took him to master the wreath feeder, I’m not placing any bets on it.
Fast fact: The red patch on a Male Red-Bellied Woodpeckers extends to the forehead, but on a female stops at the back of the neck.