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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

May 19, 2011

Pileated Woodpecker: the largest remaining species

Pileated Woodpecker surprising encounter
Apparently the Pileated Woodpecker is the only one of the largest woodpecker species in North America that has proven to be adaptable to the devastating effects of deforestation by mankind on the larger woodpecker species.  It has made a nice comeback, after it's numbers declined in the nineteenth and twentieth century.  The other two species of this size, the Ivory billed Woodpecker and Imperial Woodpecker, are thought to be extinct.

They say that this woodpecker is shy.  I have yet to see evidence of that however, since this particular woodpecker was unconcerned by my presence, or the sound of my camera, and let me get within a few feet before flying off.   My first encounter with this female was a total surprise and brought me much joy.   The joy I experienced was equaled by this second encounter, since I haven't seen a member of her species in many years.

Pileated woodpecker

Pileated woodpeckers benefit mankind by mining the trunks of trees for parasitic, or destructive insects and their larvae, which they consume and in so doing, keep the trees which provide our oxygen healthy.  They also benefit and attract other bird species, in that the many holes they drill into tree trunks provide these birds with convenient homes.  This of course benefits birdwatchers, but more importantly the forest itself, because many bird species consume insects.  The more insects that are consumed by these birds the healthier the forest will be after all.

Evidence of Pileated woodpecker presence

Pileated woodpecker female
Pileated Woodpeckers can live up to ten years and do not migrate.  They are territorial and defend their territory vigorously, except during migration, when they are more forgiving of trespassers.  This, and the fact that they will move an egg that has fallen from the nest to a safer location proves that they are intelligent.  These woodpeckers do not use the same nest site two years in a row, and the male creates the cavity for the nest site to attract a female.

When searching for the Pileated Woodpecker look for square holes in tree trunks such as the one shown just above, as this is the only woodpecker to drill holes that are more square than round.   Pileated Woodpeckers will also excavate fallen tree trunks, and so may be seen on the ground quite often.  The male of the species has a  large red stripe below the eye, while the female has a black one, otherwise the two are identical in coloring.


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