Chapter IV THE HIGH-HOLE
REDDY WOODPECKER lost no time in making friends with his cousin Mr. Flicker. Reddy knew well enough that most of the birds in the neighborhood wished he hadn’t come there to live. So he thought it wise to be pleasant and polite to Mr. Flicker. There was no knowing when he might need one friend among so many enemies. He even let Mr. Flicker drum upon the strip of tin upon the roof of the barn. But secretly Reddy thought him a queer chap.
“There’s one thing that’s very odd about you,” Reddy said to Mr. Flicker one day. “If you’re a Woodpecker, why don’t you peck wood? I’ve noticed that you spend most of your time on the ground when you’re not drumming upon my tin.”
Mr. Flicker laughed. “Oh!” he said lightly, “we Flickers have found an easier way to get a living than by drilling wood with our bills to find grubs. We eat ants,” he explained. “And that’s why you see me on the ground so much, because that’s where the ants live.” At the moment Mr. Flicker was on the ground, while Reddy clung to the trunk of a tree near him. And just to prove the truth of his statement Mr. Flicker made a quick jab into the turf with his bill. He pulled his bill out at once, giving Reddy Woodpecker a glimpse of an ant before he swallowed it.
Reddy Woodpecker stared at him in amazement. “Where’s your home?” he asked Mr. Flicker. “Is your home on the ground?”
“Bless you, no!” cried Mr. Flicker. “I’m no ground bird. My wife and I have a fine hole in an old apple tree in the orchard.”
Reddy Woodpecker had to approve of that, anyhow. So he nodded his red-capped head.
“You’re sensible in one way, at least,” he remarked. “That’s the way to live, if only you build high enough, out of harm’s way.”
Mr. Flicker grinned at him.
“It’s plain that you don’t know we Flickers are sometimes called High-holes,” he said, “because of the way we nest.”
“Ah! So you have two names, eh?” Reddy Woodpecker exclaimed, as he speared a grub with his tongue and drew it out from under a bit of bark. “I should think you’d find that confusing. I should think you’d forget who you were, sometimes.”
“Oh! It’s easy when you get used to it,” Mr. Flicker replied. He paused to capture another ant. And then he added, “I have more than just two names. I have one hundred and twenty-four in all.”
“My goodness!” cried Reddy. He was so astonished that he missed a stab at a fine grub that was right under his nose. “My goodness! Has your wife as many names as that?”
“Yes!” said Mr. Flicker.
“And your children?” Mr. Flicker nodded. “Sakes alive!” Reddy exclaimed. “How do you ever feed them all?”
Mr. Flicker gave a long, rolling, curious laugh. “We feed the children under only one name,” he explained, “although I must confess it sometimes seems to me that each of them eats enough for one hundred and twenty-four youngsters.”
“I know how that is,” said Reddy Woodpecker. “My home is in a tree in the orchard, too. And I’m raising a family of four myself.”