A Red-bellied Woodpecker and the Magic of Morton Refuge

Thursday, February 8, 2018,

Those of you that visit this blog – I think there might be three of you now – may have noticed me make mention of the Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge in Sag Harbor. Morton Refuge is a truly magical place. I’ve been going there for over 35 years years and the magic never grows old. It has never become a “ho-hum” experience despite the scores of times I’ve visited there. The magic of the refuge is simple but awe-inspiring. The magic of Morton is the trust that birds have for us humans. There are several species of our feathered friends that will feed directly from your hand. Just bring along some sunflower seeds and you’ll have a hundred new friends. 

This is a male Red-bellied Woodpecker. He was perching and pacing along a split rail fence at Morton, waiting, and hoping, for some seed to be spilled by the folks that come to feed the braver avian species. The braver – or perhaps I should say tamer – birds include Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Downy Woodpeckers.  That is the order in which you can expect them to visit you. Chickadees and Titmice are the most common visitors, while Downy Woodpeckers tend to be the shyest of the birds that will perch on your hand. Sometime, and I make no promises here, even the occasional squirrel can be enticed to sample your goods.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, Cardinals, and several assorted Sparrows will all be interested observers but I have never had any of them alight upon my own hand. This is not to say that it does not happen. I met a woman last week who told me that she had had a Blue Jay take a peanut from her hand. It just hasn’t happened for me. If it does, Morton Refuge will become that much more magical for me. As it is though, Morton is magical enough. As I said earlier, even after over 35 years, the wonder of this place never ceases. JK