Saturday, April 25, 2015

Pileated Woodpecker

I was thinking the other day how, once the leaves fully emerge on the trees, it will be much more difficult to take pictures of the Pileated Woodpeckers around the house. As if on cue, the male showed up just on the edge of the wood. The small red patch between the two white stripes on the cheek identify it as a male.

You have to admire the commitment of the Pileated Woodpeckers to one another as they mate for life. And, except at this time of year when one stays with the young in the nest cavity, they will almost always be seen together and stay within sight of one another. They share nesting duties.

I have never seen one do this with it's crest. There was a gray squirrel close by and the bird was annoyed with it. An hundred years ago, it was more likely they would be referred to as a "logcock" then a Pileated. That is often where you will see them. On the ground banging on a fallen tree that is in the terminal stages of rot. Their diet largely consists of ants and other insects found in trees in the final stages of decay.

It is also why they need such a large territory of old growth forest. It takes a large amount of logs and stumps to maintain a pair. One study estimated territory size at between 132 and 320 acres. That is a lot of ground! The more intact a canopy cover and the number of logs there are, the smaller the territory can be. The woods around our house have largely been set aside in an agreement to retain a buffer to benefit the wildlife in our area. It is not very wide in some stretches, but it is a mile or more in length.

The posture the male is assuming in this image is similar to that used in courtship. In this instance, though, the male is attempting to make himself look bigger to intimidate the squirrel which was getting too close. I saw one do this another time years ago where it spread it wings fully trying to look more imposing to a curious squirrel.

I am not sure what the squirrel had in mind but only a split second after I took this photo, the squirrel tried to jump the woodpecker and it took off. Maybe you saw the photo from England that went viral of a ferret riding on the back of a woodpecker while flying. I thought I was going to see the same thing for a second.

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