Gila Woodpeckers

Gila Woodpeckers (Melanerpes uropygialis) are quite common here in Tucson in areas with some natural desert vegetation.

Male Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis)

These birds are especially fond of my yard, and this year I had three pairs of Gila Woodpeckers nesting in my yard at fairly close proximity. Two pairs were in saguaros and one was in a Gila Woodpecker birdhouse.

Gila Woodpeckers not only like to visit my birdseed feeder, quail block, and suet feeder, they also love to drink from my hummingbird feeders, even though their approach is a bit unorthodox.

Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis) at a hummingbird feeder

Gila Woodpeckers love to steal dry dog or cat food, and those Tucson pet owners who put their dog or cat out for the day with a bowl of food that's not eaten right away and come home after work to find the bowl empty, would probably be surprised to learn how much of their pet's food was likely carried off by Gila Woodpeckers. These birds will take far more dog or cat food than they can actually eat and then secretively hide the remainder in their territory.

Knowing this, I have a hanging dry dog food feeder especially for the Gila Woodpeckers. The dog kibble is too large for the Gila Woodpeckers to swallow, but they have cleverly learned how to eat it. They wedge the dog kibble into a crack in the tree bark and then peck on it until it's broken up into bite-size pieces. I use the larger kibble dog food because the smaller would be quickly gobbled up by large numbers of White-winged Doves (Zenaida asiatica).

Juvenile Male Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis) at a dog food feeder

Even juvenile Gila Woodpeckers like this one quickly learn how to eat dog food by observing their parents.

Of course, these woodpeckers save much of this dog food for later. They are so secretive about it that I have rarely seen them hiding the dog food, but I will find it all over the yard, sometimes in the strangest places. If leather gardening gloves are left outside in my yard, within a day or two I'll invariably find dog food shoved into the fingers of the gloves.

Old leather gloves on a tiled bench

I don't know if this is the work of only one oddball Gila Woodpecker, or if they all have some strange attraction to leather gardening gloves.