Ever since I started birding I wanted to see a woodpecker, so I was quite happy when I saw a Ladder-backed Woodpecker in a tree in my yard in Oct 2007. Since then, I’ve learned how to see these little guys and now, I’m getting to where I can find them on the trail fairly easily.
Yesterday, while doing my GBBC count by the pond, I heard the drumming and so walked in its general direction, stopped and waited for my ears to guide my eyes. It turns out, he was right in front of me, tapping away on the lower trunk of a tree, which gave me a new appreciation for the effectiveness with which his striped back camouflages him.
Once they start pecking, woodpeckers seem to be pretty single-minded birds and so as I was not deemed a threat, he let me get pretty close for a few pictures.
I watched him for a while as he pecked and tapped at the tree searching for bugs. They have a tendency to spiral around a tree, but this one stayed in place and let me take pictures. I guess he knew the only real threat was that I wouldn’t get a decent shot and there was no way he was going to be out of focus. Eventually I stopped shooting and just watched him do his thing, which is really the whole reason for going out to look for birds in the first place. Eventually, this tree grew tiresome and he flew off to the high branches of another one.
The info about Ladder-backed Woodpeckers on All About Birds is interesting. They eat mostly insects and arthropods that they pry and tap out of trees. The page also describes their habitat as “desert and desert scrub” neither of which really describes my neighborhood, though this is the northeastern portion of their range. They are considered year-round residents, and according to All About birds are declining in Texas. Despite any declines, here at the edge of their range, they are the woodpeckers I see most frequently in the neighborhood. The others are Red-bellied, Golden-fronted, and Downy Woodpeckers.