Suet Battle

The woodpecker and the thrasher were fighting for the crown–
the woodpecker chased the thrasher all around the ground.
Some gave them suet and some gave them the stuff with the dehydrated bugs in it,
And then the squirrels showed up and drummed them out of town.

Okay, okay, I won’t quit my day job to become a poet. The red-bellied woodpecker is on the suet feeder. It is HIS feeder. The brown thrasher wants some suet–just a scrap, maybe? Surely there’s enough suet for all!–and hops awkwardly onto the trunk.

There’s a very specific zone of contention on the tree that the birds are aware of, and which I can almost make out watching them. As long as the thrasher is more than a foot away and below the suet, he is tolerated. Once he enters this zone, however, he is officially declaring himself After The Suet, and the woodpecker charges him, uttering a noise that I realize is nearly impossible to convey phonetically. It’s like incredibly whiny machine-gun fire, a short, staccato whining. Auto-gripe. I suppose it would technically be a “scold.” Scold is a good word for it.

The thrasher is not willing to fight the red-bellied for the suet. They’re almost the same size visually, but a lot of the thrasher is tail, and those crazy yellow serial-killer eyes are no match for a beak that doubles as a jackhammer. As soon as the woodpecker charges him, and gets anywhere close to melee range, he lets go of the trunk and drops to the ground, landing neatly without a flap. He’s good at landings, if not at perching on the vertical. The thrasher has left the zone of contention, and is now out of combat, so the woodpecker stabs at the suet again.

A few seconds later, the thrasher jumps up on the trunk again and the process begins all over again, until eventually the red-bellied is either full or too annoyed to eat and flies off. Then the thrasher can snarf suet, content in victory, until the squirrels show up.

The squirrels don’t like the millet in the suet, so they haven’t eaten it. Instead, they’ve been licking it, scraping the suet off the seeds with little squirrely tongues.

I wonder if they ever wonder why they’re getting all these dehydrated bugs in their teeth.

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