Wednesday, January 19, 2011
More beautiful snow! Took a hike today at Moreau Lake State Park to enjoy walking in the snowy woods. While there, I heard two male Pileated woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) debating over territory, and got a good look at one of them…beautiful! With this bird, in particular, it is quite easy to imagine the relationship between it, and its far-distant ancestor, Archaeopteryx! Its call has been parodied by the cartoon character ‘Woody Woodpecker”, but in all fairness, I think it is less comical, and more reminiscent of a jazz vocalist - playing bongos! Its loud thumping punctuates its syncopated call, providing the perfect backdrop for this improvised performance.
The holes that it excavates are very large, made in their hunt for carpenter ants and beetle larvae, and they are typically so large, that they attract other birds seeking similar food. In addition, Dryocopus also provide habitat for other birds, as well; because they excavate such large holes for nesting, which they then abandon when their family is fledged. Other large-cavity dwellers then take advantage of this habitat, and for this reason, biologists say that the Pileated woodpecker is very important for many other bird species.
According to Sibley, they use their large tails to prop themselves against the tree, and their “stout, chisel-like bills” to peel back the bark, and make their sizable excavations.
But their loud, characteristic tapping is not for finding food, or making nests alone, it is also their way of announcing their presence to other would-be interlopers, or to attract mates. Sibley says that you can tell the species of woodpecker by its drumming rhythms, which take the place of an actual song.