Today was a great day for different birds in the yard. I saw 2 little downy woodpeckers on my aspen trees and then a cooper’s hawk flew in above them. The downy’s were sitting parallel to the branches, as opposed to perpendicular like most birds. Their feet were grasping the branch the same way as if you were playing “one potato, two potato” and their tails were propped against the branch for counter support. Woodpeckers have a different toe configuration than other birds. Instead of 3 forward toes and 1 behind for grasping, woodpeckers have 2 forward and 2 behind for greater support when climbing tree trunks.
Cooper’s hawks are medium-sized, urban hawks that whip through yards trying to catch slow sparrows. Often they’ll come up to a feeder at ground level then swoop upwards to catch their prey. I’ve seen a cooper’s take a red-winged blackbird – they are skilled predators. They’re easily confused with sharp-shinned hawks, which are smaller and have a more squared-off tail.