The woodpeckers have been active this morning, with a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers chasing a pair of Downy Woodpeckers around my backyard.
I have a wrought iron fence/rail around my deck, and the female Downy Woodpecker landed on it and starting searching for insects, pecking into corners. Maybe there was an ant or two, but the pickings had to be slim. Just the same, the male Downy flew in and took over the spot. When he left, the female came back.
Paired Downy Woodpeckers usually stay together during the winter, but the male dominates and chases the female away from the best feeding locations. Not sure why she stays around, but some research indicates the male does provide some protection against predators. If he spots a predator and is by himself, he will stay quiet and try to remain unseen. If the male thinks his mate is within hearing range he will give an alarm note to alert the female, even if that calls attention to his own presence.
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