Acorn Woodpeckers and Dark-eyed Junco Compete for Suet

by Larry Jordan on February 1, 2011

Acorn Woodpecker at Suet Feeder photos by Larry Jordan

The Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) breeds here on my property in Oak Run.  I put up a woodpecker feeder to attract them to my yard and they have been visiting ever since.  They also visit the suet feeder and have no problem casually munching down the suet cakes.

Many of the birds visiting my yard like the suet and have learned how to hang on to the suet cage to feed.  I had to chuckle as this Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) flew towards the suet feeder, then noticed the rather large woodpecker occupying the feeder and put on the brakes to veer off before it was too late.

Here is a video of two female Acorn Woodpeckers at the woodpecker feeder.  Note the red crown on the females is separated from the white forehead by a black stripe while the male’s red crown (above) extends all the way to his white forehead.

You can hear the chattering calls of the two females that are typical of this species.

To see more interesting bird photos, check out World Bird Wednesday!

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

NicoleB, Kuwait February 1, 2011 at 6:42 pm

I am totally in Love with that second shot, Larry.
It’s so fascinating to watch them little critters!


Gary Phillips February 1, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Great series, Larry. That Junco is quite agressive for a Junco. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River.


Kyle February 1, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Love the Acorn Woodpeckers, Larry. You got some wonderful shots of them at the feeder. Nice job!


Sally in WA February 1, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Great action shot!


Mick February 1, 2011 at 9:53 pm

That’s a really great photo of the Woodpecker and Junco deciding not to come in to the feeder at the same time. It’s always interesting to be able to record interaction between the birds like this.


holdingmoments February 1, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Great capture of the Junco heading to the feeder Larry.
Love the video too.


Larry February 1, 2011 at 10:27 pm

@Nicole I really liked that shot too. Of course it was just blind luck that I got that Junco in the shot. As I was taking the photo of the woodpecker at the feeder, I saw the Junco out of the corner of my eye and then found it when I downloaded the photos onto the computer. We all know it’s better to be lucky than good right?

@Gary I think the Junco was more shocked than aggressive

@Kyle the Acorn Woodpeckers are one of my favorites. They provide hours of birdwatching entertainment

@Sally thank you very much

@Mick recording bird behavior is my favorite part of photography

@Keith thanks. Like I said, a lucky shot that one


Arija February 1, 2011 at 11:34 pm

A delightful video. Exciting viewing and listening as well.


joco February 2, 2011 at 4:08 am

Thanks for showing the difference in red heads of these birds.
Such interesting and lively shots.


joco February 2, 2011 at 4:12 am

Me again, after watching your lovely video: That feeder, offering them two feeding options: fantastic. did you make it?
Love the way the male on the left tries it the usual way and then goes back to the holes.


Pat February 2, 2011 at 7:05 am

Great post! Love the video!


Dawn Fine February 2, 2011 at 7:45 am

i love those Silly Clown Birds!
Great video!


Hilke Breder February 2, 2011 at 8:29 am

Loved the video and the shots, prarticularly with the junco putting on the brakes! Fascinating the black eye mask, makes them look like robbers in disguise!


OpposableChums February 2, 2011 at 9:25 am

At my suet feeder in CT, it’s Downy vs. Carolina Wren. The wrens are almost recklessly stubborn. I can’t imagine the damage a sharply-aimed Downy bill can inflict, but the wrens have taken blow after direct blow and adamantly retained their perch.

Yesterday, one Downy jab sent a tuft of Wren down feathers floating off into the breeze. Another attack saw the Wren’s wing caught and vehemently tugged by the Downy. But the Wrens remained on the (tiny) suet feeder, even offering a few aggressive jabs back.

Gotta admire those little guys…


theconstantwalker February 2, 2011 at 11:33 am

Lovely birds very well captured. thanks for sharing.


springman February 2, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Loved the video. A beautifully composed frame and two handsome woodpeckers is a potent combo. That has to be the coolest suet feeder I have ever seen. The holes in the side boards are a brilliant idea. Our local meat market sells homemade suet in bulk which would be perfect for a rig like this.

Reply February 2, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Put the brakes on indeed!


Larry February 2, 2011 at 10:49 pm

@Arija thanks. I am trying to take more video when I’m out taking photos. It is so easy to do with the new digital cameras, as long as your subject stays in focus

@Jo I bought the feeder (from my own store) 🙂 but I plan on drawing up a plan for it and posting it on my Birdhouse Plan page. It should be easy to make and it works like a dream!

@Pat thanks a lot

@Dawn me too! Thanks for your constant support

@Hilke interesting observation. I, like Dawn, have always thought of them as clowns

@Jason wrens are tough alright. It sounds like you need a second feeder!

@Andrew thanks, my pleasure

@Dave thanks! The wooden feeder is actually used for “woodpecker food.” A mix of sunflower seed, nuts, pumpkin seed and several dried fruits made by Wild Delight. I get it at the local Petco store. I imagine it would work for suet also but it might be a bit hard to clean

@Chantelle indeed. That Junco made a very quick decision!


Sallie (FullTime-Life) February 3, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Marvelous series — really makes me miss the bird feeders we had when we lived in Oregon. Is the dark-eyed the same as what we used to call the Oregon junko? (That’s a rhetorical question I think — I’ll go to my book asap! )


Larry February 4, 2011 at 6:23 am

@Sallie, yes the Dark-eyed Junco actually has 5 different subspecies. This one is the Oregon Junco.


Lana February 4, 2011 at 11:49 am

Wow…what a handsome bird! Wish we had them here!


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