Bird Lady Blog

August 20, 2011

Black and White and Red and Football


First some local news. There are Tree Swallows again in the nest box on Pat and Roy’s property on Raintree.  Seems like this is the second brood this season and the parent birds are mounting an all-out effort to keep the little ones fed.  You can see them flying back and forth all day and into the early evening carrying insects to their young.  By the time this article is published the babies will hopefully have successfully fledged.  I also received notice of a sighting of a Red-Faced Warbler by Kathy and Cindy near their property on Turkey Trail.  That is one bird still on my must-see list, so I am jealous.

And second, now that the NFL season is approaching, I did some research into what percent of the U.S. population over 18 follows NFL football compared to what percent of the U.S. population are birdwatchers.   Which do you think is greater?  The answer will be at the end of this post.

In the rest of this issue we will describe the birds of Munds Park that are primarily black, white, and red.  The first that comes to mind is the Acorn Woodpecker.  This bird’s back is mostly black, but when it flies from tree to tree or across your street, you can see the white under parts of its wings and belly. Acorn Woodpeckers live in year-round social units and depend on these family-type groups to build up and defend their stored supplies of acorns and insects.  This comical looking bird, with its bright red cap and a face that has a distinct white eye ring and black-white pattern, is rumored to be the inspiration for Woody the Woodpecker, in part because it was the common woodpecker near the northern California cabin of Walter Lantz, Woody’s creator. However, the Acorn Woodpecker does not have a crest, as does Woody, so I think the Pileated
Woodpecker is the better candidate for our cartoon friend Woody.

The ListServe I subscribe to reported some sightings this spring and early summer of Acorn Woodpeckers in Tempe.  Though common for Munds Park, that is big news for birders in Maricopa County.

The second black and white bird with some red on its head is the Downy Woodpecker.  This little bird, about seven inches in length, is common throughout the United States and a welcome sight with its bright red cap on a wintry white day.  We don’t see them too often in Munds Park – but I spotted one this summer and another one last summer on our property.  The Downy Woodpecker has a black back with a broad white patch down the center, a white checker-board pattern on its wings, a white belly, and a small red spot on its crown. Because it is so small and can forage in small spaces, it uses food sources in its natural habitat that larger woodpeckers do not.

And finally there is the Painted Restart – a real rarity, but it does on occasion show up in Munds Park. It is glossy black with distinctive white  wing bars you cannot miss, and it has a red belly. When it forages among the trees, it spreads showy white outer tail feathers to flush insects, making it easy to follow once located. Like the Red-faced Warbler mentioned earlier, the Painted Redstart makes its nest on the ground.  This bird is only found regularly in Arizona and New Mexico at elevations of 5,000 to 8,000 feet, so Munds Park fits the bill.  I saw one from our deck last year and it was the highlight of my birding season.

As for the statistics on birders versus NFL football fans, the football fans are more numerous.  Over 20 percent of the U.S. population over age 18 have actively birded (versus just sitting at home and watching birds in their neighborhood).  More than 60 percent of the U.S. population follows NFL football.  However, I will bet most of them are sitting inside watching on a TV.  Hmmm, there may be a connection here, though.  We have
the NFL Cardinals, Eagles, Falcons, Ravens, and Seahawks.  Maybe football and birds do go hand-in-hand at times!

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