A few years ago, we became frustrated with the scrub jays raiding finch and titmouse nests, killing the youngsters. I took to chasing off these invaders, but to no avail. So we purchased a birdhouse with a small opening – too small for the jay, but large enough for the finches. This was hung in the eaves of our back deck, where we had noticed the little birds constructing nests in past years.
One evening, I sat outdoors and heard a shuffling noise from inside the birdhouse. Finally! The finches had arrived and made themselves at home! The next morning, I spied, and at around dawn was surprised to see a black and white bird poke its head out the opening, peer around, then jet out to the large elm in the center of the yard, uttering a familiar trill.
That trill I now know is a pittuk, and the bird a female Nutall’s Woodpecker (Picoides nuttalli). A Nutall’s is not the showiest woodpecker, but is a mighty workhorse and I have learned they can live up to 14 years.
Three years later, the little bird still lives with us. On occasion before dawn, I hear her pecking away inside her home, and like to imagine that she is dreaming of a grove abounding in rotting, insect-infested trees. In the evenings, if we linger on the deck to enjoy dusk’s arrival, she perches atop our garage and scolds us mercilessly, anxious to return to her wooden box.