The Willow Tree

July 10, 2018

There is a huge old weeping willow in our yard here in San Antonio.  I have learned so much watching it. I sometimes wonder how many birds and other animals make it their home.

It has been so interesting watching the family of what I think are golden fronted woodpeckers living in the willow.  When we first arrived I saw a pair flitting in and out and calling to each other in a screechy call.  I suspected that there were young in a cavity in the tree as it seemed like the two called each other when they needed to be relieved of duty.  When they rested they would often fly over to a flamboyan tree and look around before heading back to the nest.

Then a week or so ago there was the incident with the cat. I saw the cat sitting casually on a branch but it made the woodpeckers hysterical and it seemed to me there were way more woodpeckers all of a sudden.  Whether the little ones were ready to leave the nest or not it seems that was the day it happened.  Eventually the cat left and things settled down, but with way more woodpecker screeching than we’d been used to.

So then we noticed that an adult woodpecker would go up on a post that is higher than our roof and screech a bit.  A few moments afterwards one or more of the little ones would fly out of the willow to get fed.  This happened many times a day.  

I believe they grow very fast because now the little ones still try to get their parents to feed them – by going up to the post and screeching the “come for dinner” screech.  Usually we hear a return call but no one comes.

The willow is also home – or at least a favorite resting place for a lot of different hummingbirds.  There are big ones that have grey fronts and smaller green ones.  Some have blue or violet.  I haven’t identified them all.  They mainly feed like crazy in the morning and evening and if rain is in the air.  If you know hummingbirds you know how they chase each other away and try to lay claim to a feeder.  In between every battle they all take their rest in the willow tree.

A couple of days ago I was watching the scenery – the hummingbirds were buzzing around, fighting and playing.  Then all of a sudden a black shape (I think it was great tailed grackle) swooped down and snatched a careless hummingbird. It flew off, holding the screaming bird as it flew.

One of our favorite cocktail hour amusements is sitting and watching the evening arrive. Last night as I watched the swallows swooping I saw a hummingbird chasing a swallow!  Crazy!  

The willow is also popular with orioles, who hang upside down and nibble away as they swing on the long willow branches.  They don’t bother the hummingbird feeders like they did in Mazatlán, either. Every once in a while I hear parrots in the willow tree, too… but I haven’t actually seen them yet.

We really enjoy watching the bird life here and getting to know their daily activities in a much more intimate way.


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More about Nancy

I'm Nancy, a US expat living in San Antonio Tlayacapan, Jalisco after 11 years in Mazatlán, México.

    1. And that is why taking habitat away by taking down trees has such a huge impact, not just on the birds but the entire ecosystem. One tree can support so much. We are losing habitat at a frightening rate. Seeing Mazatlan drain the areas along the coast is heart breaking. But we can all help by fostering and supporting nature even in our little courtyards.

      1. I agree with you, Ingrid. This tree is alive with critters. Our landlady told us a story though… a few years ago the tree was not doing well (it is super old!) and so they did some trimming and drilled down to give it nutrition etc and one of the limbs that was trimmed had 3 baby woodpeckers in it. She took them home and hand fed them and they survived! She put them in a cage at the edge of the property and when they were big enough she left a bit open so they could leave and return. After a few weeks they stopped coming back! Success!

        Oh, the cat. It is feral, no one knows where it comes from but it thinks this whole property is its territory I guess.

        1. That is a wonderful story. Good for her for caring. We try and not do any pruning when there might be baby birds but it is hard to know.

    1. Wow! Who knew anything could catch a hummingbird? I hope he escaped. Hummingbirds are amongst my favorite wildlife. They’re endlessly entertaining.

      You really have a lovely spot there. Thanks for sharing.


      Kim G
      Redding, CA
      Where the hummingbirds are carried aloft on plumes of smoke.

      1. Hi Kim,

        We are seeing all kinds of wildlife craziness here lately – yesterday a lizard ran down the house and snatched a fuzzy orange and black caterpillar and then ran away making the weirdest sound… two hummingbirds fighting this morning locked in a death grip fell to the ground and only let go when I came over and clapped and yelled at them… a woodpecker chasing a moth in a crazy this way that way chase that he eventually won… it is always something!

        I hope you are still safe from the fire, what a horror where you are right now! xoxo N.

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