Extra Sharp

The tongue of a male Gila woodpecker sticks out of his beak as he looks out from his nest in a saguaro on the Latigo Trail in McDonnell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2019

It must seem unfair to the insects of the Sonoran Desert, given all the sharp spines they have to navigate, that some saguaros are extra sharp. The tongue of this Gila woodpecker is just sticking out of his beak, it’s a long tongue that wraps around in his head that he can shoot into cavities to snare insects with the sharp tip. I’m so tickled I get to see these amazing birds every day (except times like now when it is dark when I leave for and get home from work).

The Less Early Bird Gets the Early Bird

A male Gila woodpecker perches on a dead tree branch near the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in November 2019

Last night I turned off my alarm as I wanted to get as much sleep as I could, naturally waking half an hour later than I would normally get up to hike. However with trails so close by I was able to roll out of bed and grab my hiking gear and still make it to the trailhead right around sunrise. I took an easy trail, one of my favorites, but despite seeing a number of birds couldn’t manage any pictures. Some days are like that, and it’s fine as it’s just nice to be out. But then this gorgeous Gila woodpecker posed for me on a dead tree branch, even hopping up a little into a more photogenic location, and the smile on my face got even wider.

Calling Out

A male Gila woodpecker calls out while perching next to his nest in a saguaro on the Latigo Trail in the Brown's Ranch section of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2019

Early on a spring morning a male Gila woodpecker calls out near his nest in a saguaro. He often had an insect in his mouth so his calls were usually a bit muffled but in this instance his beak was empty and his voice was strong. He and his mate were vocalizing as they hunted for insects to feed their young, I’m assuming so they could keep in close contact with each other when out of sight, especially when one was inside the nest. After my hike this morning a handful of these wonderful birds were quite active in the backyard as they visited the feeders and pecked at tree branches.