Friday, May 30, 2014

Tree Swallow Bullies Red-headed Woodpecker at Schlitz Audubon

Watching feeder birds at nature centers is always enjoyable. Sometimes, birders can see "rarer" birds up close. At Schlitz Audubon in Milwaukee County, Carolina Wrens and Red-headed Woodpeckers occasionally make appearances at the feeders.

This afternoon, I watched a male Tree Swallow aggressively chase a Red-headed Woodpecker off of a peanut feeder. Barn Swallows nest in the rafters of the building, and apparently a Tree Swallow pair shacked up in one of the new nest boxes that were placed in the same area as the feeders. The Tree Swallow did not harass any of the other feeder birds, which included a Red-breasted Nuthatch, chickadees, House Sparrows, etc. Something about the Red-headed Woodpecker set it off.

The first time, I didn't capture the action. I think I was in shock!

The second time, I was ready.

For a maybe a minute, the woodpecker enjoyed a snack.
Quickly, the Tree Swallow began whizzing closely to the woodpecker, trying to hint that the larger bird should get lost.

The woodpecker became perplexed but didn't immediately leave.

The Tree Swallow made another attempt to rid its area of the perceived intruder.

If birds think, "What the heck?!" surely the woodpecker was after the second swipe.
The woodpecker stood its ground during repeated attacks... until the Tree Swallow became nearly violent.
The woodpecker had enough.

The woodpecker retreated. 

I had a feeling that the lovely Red-headed Woodpecker wouldn't be back for awhile. Who knows if I was right. I could not help but feel badly for it. Their numbers aren't great; they don't need to be beaten up on Tree Swallows when trying to feed! I wonder why the Tree Swallow only went after the woodpecker--size? coloration? Perhaps there's no rational explanation, as is often the case in nature. An interesting experience, at least!

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