The Green Woodpecker And The Magpie

I’m very fortunate that my study window looks out over the canal.  It’s a grand view if an awfully distracting one.

Mute Swan

My eyes lift from my laptop all too easily as people walk, cycle, jog or paddle past my window; or a mute swan glides about on still water.  Moorhens aren’t so good at gliding.

Nesting Mute Swan

The swan’s mate sits on her nest directly in front of our house. This is her second clutch of eggs. She hatched three goslings a couple of months ago but they soon disappeared, prey to who knows what. There may be goslings up the canal towards Stroud, there may be goslings down the canal towards the Severn but here we have no goslings.

Female Mallard

Moorhens come up from the water’s edge to feed on our front lawn, and mallards too. A few weeks ago a female mallard stood on our driveway and puffed out her chest.

Fighting Mallard Ducks (2)

And that was enough to send suitors into a paroxysm of jealous, lustful violence.

Fighting Mallard Ducks (1)

Still, I thought it a relief to watch drakes attacking each other – rather than repeatedly shagging a poor and already exhausted duck. It’s what male mallards do, I know, but it’s unpleasant to watch and can, occasionally, result in the death of the duck. Especially on water.

Mallard drake

Sometimes in Sussex, I would shout and wave my arms at lusty drakes who wouldn’t otherwise leave a distressed female alone. Perhaps I shouldn’t have. Perhaps I simply should’ve watched male mallards do what male mallards do. And tutted.

Magpie and Woodpecker (5)

A couple of days ago, as I sat at my desk, my eyes flicked up to a green woodpecker hopping about on the verge between road and canal. I’m fond of a green woodpecker and so reached out for my camera – just in time for a new arrival.

Magpie and Woodpecker (7)

The two birds immediately faced off. It’s often interesting to watch the interaction between two species and this was as an implausible a match as any dreamt up by small boys or middle-aged men.

“Who’d win a fight between Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus?”

“Which would come out on top? A jaguar or a Bengal tiger?”

“Who’d stand triumphant, panting? Bette Midler or Barbra Streisand?”

Magpie and the Woodpecker (2)

Though I’m not a betting man, I’d wager you a tenner that the woodpecker would soon be chased off by the black and white one.

Magpie and the Woodpecker (1)

I think the magpie thought the same.

Magpie and Woodpecker (1)

But the woodpecker with her backside stuck to tarmac and her bill at the ready refused to budge. The magpie seemed non-plussed.

Magpie and Woodpecker (6)

Again, he tried to show that a top-of-the-tree corvid shouldn’t have to trouble himself with an obstinate woodpecker that doesn’t even peck wood – well, not like a proper woodpecker anyhow.

Magpie and Woodpecker (4)

But his posturing didn’t intimidate her one bit. Hoping, I suspect, that nobody witnessed his ignominy, the magpie gave up and flew off. The woodpecker, unruffled, hopped up on the grass and continued her hunt for ants in the grass.

Woodpecker – 1

Magpie – 0

Here’s that tenner.

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33 thoughts on “The Green Woodpecker And The Magpie

  1. I love magpies for all that colour with the change from black to white shimmering greens/purples around the tips and neck.
    Seriously beautiful bird with perfect colours..
    Personality of a magpie….🤔 needs some thinking

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just read up about ‘The Monty’ – looks like a great restoration project going on there as well. It’s fantastic, I think, how all these canals are being resurrected. Love it, D

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  2. I can’t think what got them going at each other. Usually, inter species arguments are solved very quickly with a “See, I am bigger than you are” or such like. Excellent photos of a very unusual argument, I think (but I am not a birdie person.) Amelia

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    • My uncle emailed to say he’s seen a similar thing when magpies ganged up on a young green woodpecker. The parents suddenly arrived and chased off the magpies. They’re right little tigers seemingly. D

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  3. Nice post David.
    Quietly confess that we are pleased you are closer to the real God’s Country (Wales) than before (as lovely as your before-world was). We can keep a closer eye on you and maybe send some more green woodpeckers to Stroud to keep you interested. Ha ha!.

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    • I’m a huge fan of God’s other own country, Lewis, Since we’ve been in Stroud we’ve been to Pembrokeshire and the Brecon Beacons and are returning to the latter in September. And off to the Wye Valley in a couple of weeks. Perhaps we should’ve just moved to Wales in the first place? Might have saved on petrol. Under your eye, D

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  4. Lovely anecdotes about the birds near you. I, too, feel sorry for the female ducks and how kind of you to defend them. Awful to think that humans aren’t the only species to behave in such a despicable manner.
    Is the swan laying on something – I’ve been trying to work out if it is her body to the left or something else?

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  5. Wonderful photos of a great match – I’m glad the woodpecker won. We have one here which loves the coconuts on the feeder. It’s very distracting to have a window on their world isn’t it? – I don’t get much work done either!

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  6. I have a couple of lesser spotted woodpeckers as regular visitors. A few weeks ago they brought a baby with them. The kid soon got the hang of the peanut feeder. I also have an abundance of magpies and blue jays which are real bullies. Parents always fly off when the bigger guys appear but baby hadn’t learned the dangers and attacked a group of four magpies. I was about to dash outside to the rescue but needn’t have worried. Here it was baby 4, magpies 0.

    Now, if there are magpies or jays around when baby arrives, they are evicted before he starts his peanut routine. He bullies the squirrels too but happily shares the peanuts with small birds.

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    • Jealous that you’ve got lessers, John. I’ve never seen one. Who knew that woodpeckers were such fearsome and fearless little critters? Greens always fly off at the first sight of me so I assumed them to be right wusses. Maybe they are but they obviously cannot stand magpies. D

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    • We’re knee-deep in magpies here too. I’m exaggerating but there are loads.

      I’ve thought long and hard over the Bette v Barbra winner-takes-all fight. My inclination is Bette too but Barbra? Shouldn’t underestimate her. Evens are the best odds I could offer, D

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for the great little story of the green woodpecker and the magpie. It gave me a lift today… dreadfully hot here in W Michigan right now and as much as we try to get out and watch the fauna, it is pretty tough in the afternoons… this was so descriptive, I felt like I was right there watching it happen.

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