Hanging by a Thread

Rescued red-bellied woodpecker that continually plucks his feathers.

Around the beginning of the year, we took in a rescue adult red-bellied woodpecker who had gotten himself into trouble. He was found with a sticky substance all over him and cleaning him required the removal of many of his feathers. In particular, he lost many flight feathers. He came to us to stay safe until he could fly and we could release him.

Being an adult woodpecker, he is troubled whenever we come near him. We leave him alone as best we can to keep him calm. We started off letting him on the lanai once a week to check his flying capability. This required capturing him and placing him back in his cage after the test which was traumatizing to him and painful for us. He pecked and screamed.

We thought his feathers were growing in too slowly and eventually held him long enough to see that his flight feathers were not growing back in. His feathers were broken, so his body did not know to replace them. We will not remove his feathers, so we have to wait for him to molt.

He has removed all his body and tail feathers at least three times since we got him. Recently, the weather cooled a lot for Florida and he was naked wherever he could reach his feathers. I was concerned about his ability to keep warm, so we brought him into the house.

Not only did he remove his body feathers, but he plucked out all his tail feathers also.

He is getting better about me being near the cage without him hiding as long as I don’t get too near. Last night, as I was letting the dog out, I noticed the bird was hanging from the top of the cage like a bat. This was not unusual. Later, I let the dog out again and the bird was still hanging in the same spot. I jokingly asked if he was stuck and then realized he was. We had a towel draped over half the cage to give him some privacy. He had gotten his toenail stuck in the threads of the towel. Poor guy.

I had to grab him while Regis got scissors to cut him free. We had to take him to a brightly lit room to remove the threads from his leg. The whole time, he was screaming and pecking at me. I felt terrible that he did not appreciate how we were helping him. He did not make the connection and hates us. The good news is that he is back to being his regular crazy self. He throws his bark butter bits, crickets, and mealworms out of the cage. He is a major cleanup issue. Does anyone know when red-bellied woodpeckers molt?

The woodpecker hiding from me behind his log.

On another note, we released a mockingbird and blue jay last May. I have seen the blue jay, Topaz, on several of my walks over the last week. He has always been with a mockingbird. (I do not know what sex the bird is but have taken to calling it a he.) There are so many mockingbirds on our street that I can’t be sure it is our mockingbird, but the bird allowed me to stay close to video.

I do not think it is possible for a mockingbird and blue jay to mate, but I have recently wondered what mocking jays might look like.

One Comment on “Hanging by a Thread

  1. WOW!….I am tired after reading this!….. I hope all your charges appreciate all your and Regis’s efforts!

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