Men vs. Women (and vice-versa)

Male Downy Woodpecker Attacking Female

“No one knows how it started
And Lord knows how it will end;
The fighting continues:
Women versus men.”
—David Byrne


It all started when I saw a Downy Woodpecker on the suet feeder and clicked off a few shots…

When I noticed a second Downy popping up over the top and glaring —you might not think a bird can glare, but check out the photos! —at the first. Whereupon Downy number one assumed defensive postures, and Downy two launched an all-out airborne assault.

Well, this was fascinating and I was ideally sited to record the entire battle, assuming the whole time that two males were going at it, the same way male Goldfinches do in summer.

It was only in post that I clearly saw the defender was female…and the attacker male

And everything I thought I knew about Downy Woodpeckers fell apart.

Things didn’t get less mysterious in May, when this female appeared to pair off with the male, and raised two descents of Downy hatchlings over the ensuing summer.

So what was this all about? Scanning the available literature, I can only find vague references to “pre-mating behavior.”

So I leave it to you. Is the male demonstrating what a fit and and strong Dad he could be to a drumming of Downy nestlings?

Or is this the sort of schoolyard behavior you sometimes witness between two human lovers-to-be —the little boy who can only punch the female of his fancy —passion displaced as aggression?

Or is this merely business as usual preparatory to Downy dating?

As one of my friends commented “I guess Downies like it rough?”

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    1. Many thanks, Tony. It’s terrific hearing from you. Life right now is super-satisfying. Love my new photography job — so much to learn always! What are you up to these days?

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