Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Woodpeckers, Red-headed and Red-bellied

These beautiful woodpeckers are year-round residents of the Houston area and often come to bird feeders, looking for a little extra nutrition.  The Red-headed Woodpecker, a sporty bird with a red hood, black wings and white breast, is one of four woodpeckers known to store food.  It is omnivorous, eating insects, seeds, nuts, mice, plants, berries, fruit and bird eggs.  Because it prefers to nest in dead or dying trees, the Red-headed Woodpecker is approaching "Threatened" status.  Much of its habitat is being replaced by development.

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker is more common but no less beautiful.  Like all woodpeckers, its flight has a swooping pattern:  I often identify a woodpecker as soon as I notice its undulating flight.  The Red-bellied Woodpecker eats mainly insects, but will also visit backyard feeders, seek out fruit and occasionally hunt lizards.  These birds are fairly aggressive at feeders -- only blue jays seem to be able to chase them away.  Happily, Red-bellied Woodpecker populations are increasing throughout most of their range.

For more information on woodpeckers, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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