Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Williamson's Sapsucker Drumming

This morning while walking my dog, Thielsen, in the Deschutes National Forest, I observed a Williamson's sapsucker drumming on a broken off ponderosa pine. A short series of rapid notes followed by several trailing off notes alerted me to the male. Their drumming sounds like it's running out of gas towards the end versus the staccato drum of the Northern flicker.

The male also made a few "churr" calls that have a jay-like quality.

Though I didn't see the female, which ornithologists first thought was a different species, the ponderosa snag had numerous cavities that may represent a nesting location. A pygmy nuthatch was investigating some cavities lower on the snag, so maybe this snag will serve as an "apartment complex" this season.

The Williamson's honors Lt. Robert Stockton Williamson (1825-1882), one of the topographical engineers who led a transcontinental railroad survey into California and Oregon in the 1850s. A male sapsucker was collected during that expedition and John Cassin described and named the species for the lieutenant. Williamson Mountain and the Williamson River in Oregon and Mount Williamson in California are also named for Williamson.

A small piece of trivia: a group of sapsuckers is known as a "slurp." Like other sapsuckers, the Williamson drills a row of horizontal holes in a tree to access the sap. The birds consume the sap and/or the insects trapped in the sticky fluid. Sapsuckers have shorter tongues than other woodpeckers and the tip is brushlike.

Northern flicker

I made some notes in my journal as to the location of the tree and will have to return with my camera and camcorder to get some images. If nothing else, a good excuse to go back for a walk in the woods.

Pygmy nuthatch

No comments:

Post a Comment