A Gila woodpecker friend of mine visits our backyard with great regularity. He is a handsome guy. A brown bird with a zebra-streaked back of black and white, all set off by a flashy red beret. Sometimes he even brings his capless wife. He lives out here in the desert year-round, though exactly where I’m not sure. He hasn’t invited me home yet.
His favorite hangout is the telephone pole in the alley behind our house. Usually I hear him first. A loud “chrrr” and then I look up to see him working the cracks in the pole for ants and other delectables. A hard worker he is. Definitely blue-collar, but with a touch of flamboyance.
Like most friends, he can get on your nerves. He has a bad habit or two. Perhaps his worst habit is provoked by a sweet tooth. Just as the oranges on our tree turn ripe, he thrusts his dagger of a bill through the tough rind and sucks out the juice. Before long, the orange drops lifeless to the ground, a dark hole in the middle and a whole bunch of wasted pulp.
The sweet-tooth extends beyond the pale. Hanging from the orange tree we have a small hummingbird feeder filled with four parts water and one part sugar. The pugnacious Anna’s hummingbirds are addicted to it but must share with the Gila. It is funny to watch this 10-inch bird contorting himself in a clownish way on the feeder which is only slightly larger than he. In a tavern, he’d be known as a sloppy drinker. Swinging there under his weight, the glass container sloshes the liquid everywhere. Then I have to crack the whip on Nebra to make more of this enticing elixir.
If he weren’t so handsome, I might seek a confrontation. Or fill the container with vinegar. But I’m a bit afraid he wouldn’t come back. And then of course there’s the hummingbirds.
And I can thank him for one thing. He’s solidified an old bias of mine that red heads are a little nutty.