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Saturday, May 8, 2010

PILEATED WOODPECKER -- TEARING IT UP!

PILEATED WOODPECKER ON ONE OF MY THREE STUMPS NEAR MY HOUSE

For the past three years I have had a resident pair of Pileated Woodpeckers residing around my house. I am not sure how large their territory is -- but I do know that they love the three silver maple stumps near my home. Slowly over these three years they have been working on tearing the stumps apart. This activity appears mostly in the spring of the year.

They are large and magnificent birds -- the largest woodpecker species in North America. Their size can range from about 16 inches to 19 inches long.

They are not being mischievous by slowly demolishing the stumps -- they are after the insects that reside in them. Their favorite insects are long horned beetles and carpenter ants. With their marvelous strong beaks they can rip off slivers of wood allowing them to extend their beaks deep into the stump's dead wood to eat insects.


MALE PILEATED WOODPECKER ON ONE OF MY DEAD STUMPS
Dryocopus pileatus

Their beak is also used to excavate a new nesting hollow in a large mature tree and they excavate a different nesting site each year. Each new hollow has several entrances. Other wildlife species take up residency in the old vacated nesting sites.

One can identify the male from the female -- the male has a red mustache strip and the female's mustache is black.

I hear the Pileated Woodpecker's calling and drumming all year long as they are year round residents here. The male does most of the drumming and is most vocal in the winter and spring. At that time I hear the escalation of drumming sounds and calls -- loudly and clearly -- it resonates throughout the woods that surround my home. The drumming serves to establish territory rights and to attract a mate. Also a high pitched call is used for the same purposes. Pairs of Pileated appear to reside in the same territory year after year.


DEAD TORN UP STUMP

I have lots of poison ivy on my homestead. Apparently Pileated woodpeckers like the white berry fruit that it produces. They have been seen by some, hanging upside down from a branch reaching the poison ivy fruit they are after. They also like nuts of which the oaks, beech and hickory provide plenty.

PART OF THE STUMP WITH BEAK MARKINGS AND WOOD SLIVERS EXCAVATED BY THE WOODPECKER

Their habitat is large areas of coniferous or deciduous trees. Mostly they prefer dead trees for their nesting sites -- they excavate rectangular entrances and line the interior with wood chips. They usually have 3 to 5 eggs and fledge 24 to 28 days after hatching. They usually stay with the parents for a few months learning the techniques of foraging. I have yet to see any young birds with the pair.


THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STUMP -- UNDISTURBED AS OF YET

At one time populations declined greatly in the early 1900s. The species has rebounded since the mid 1900s. In Arkansas and Washington their numbers appear to be diminishing.

Following are some good sites to learn more about Pileated Woodpeckers.

All About Birds

Bird Web

6 comments:

  1. What a fabulous bird!
    Perfectly in tune with its environment with other animals able to recycle the old nests, helping to break down tree stumps, dining on insects, just perfect.
    I reckon Mother Nature might have a method in her madness for her Grand Plan , y'know lol ;)

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  2. We have quite a few of these gorgeous birds on our mountain -- the down side is that we also have carpenter bees, drilling holes in the wood of our house and laying their eggs -- after which the pileateds treat our house the way yours do the stumps -- it's amazing the holes they can make.

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  3. Jayne -- Yes it all a grand plan and I love watching it unfold. Thanks for the thoughtful comment -- barbara

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  4. Vicki -- oh no -- Pileated woodpeckers and Carpenter bees -- all drilling on your wood house!! How do you deal with that situation? -- barbara

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  5. How nice to have Pileateds in your backyard! I see them occasionally around here, but they tend to stick to the forest.

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  6. barefootheart, You might say I live on the very edge of a forest. I live on a ridge that has forest lingering only several feet from my back area and travels up and over the mountain. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment about the Pileateds in your area. -- barbara

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