This is in lieu of a wonderful 2 hour walk around PSU property during my natural history class.
Firstly- open the below link to see the 25 species we encountered today:
I want to also point out how spectacular and special the 3+ courting yellow bellied sapsuckers were. These birds are relatively rare to find- here are the first things off the top of my head you all should know:
- They do not suck sap. They eat bugs like all the other woodpeckers…
- They are farmers. These are the only birds to my knowledge who literally farm for a living…. They peck a matrix of holes in trees with sap- often perfect rows and columns- into which bugs fall and get trapped. Then, at their leisure, the sapsucker will visit its “sticky bug fields” and gobble the bugs up. This not only makes their life of pecking and eating super laid back, it allows them to have personal property. 🙂
- They were pests not long ago. Because of the whole farm-the-tree thing, human farmers of high octane fruit trees and other trees pushing a large amount of sap would generally shoot the sapsuckers ASAP to avoid the sapsucker killing the tree. As scary as that is, the humans are correct- the sapsucker will win, One sapsucker doing some farming can spring a significant number of leaks in young trees, allowing bugs and parasites in, killing the unassuming orchard.
- They not endangered. These birds are rare because, as any farmer will tell you, they have lots of work to do around the active bug-sap-hole farms. They each have their own space, and respect each other’s trees and areas. This makes the concentration low, but the overall population number still healthy.
- They are a wild card for at risk forests. Sapsuckers don’t mean any harm, but fragile ecosystems with just a few sap filled trees can get a makeover after a few sapsuckers move in. Sometimes, this is fabulous: old trees die, allowing other animals and organisms to move in, including other species of woodpecker. New plants will grow, and the space will move on and evolve. On the other hand, as our orchard friends know, a tree bleeding sap is undoubtedly going to have a problem sooner or later. Woodpeckers are fine with that, but other species are not…
…So those who saw the sapsuckers today, consider yourself lucky; that was spectacular!