For those of you who stayed tuned since my last post, I’ve revisited the secret location of the great Pileated Woodpecker. Closely resembling the likely extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker, but smaller with a black bill, they are most common in the southeast, but found in the northeast and across Canada. They feed mostly on carpenter ants that they find in dead trees.
As you may recall, he (you can tell it’s a male because the red covers his full crown) was driven off by this guy, Bubba the Squirrel.
When I returned to the site on the following Friday, the Pileated was again driven off by Bubba, this time with the help of two of his friends–Bootsy and Kicksy. It seems to me that this giant woodpecker could have easily dispatch these squirrels with his powerful bill. In any event, closer examination of the tree suggested that the dead spline on which he was drilling was a source of food, rather than the beginnings of a nest. The tree’s spline did not look substantial enough to house these woodpeckers, nor did we ever see two, which you would expect in the case of nest-building.
I returned a third time this past week. My wife and I were no sooner set-up that the bird landed at the same exact position on the spline! How thoughtful. This photo shoot was almost like doing studio work. I took the shots and when I was done–he flew off, this time without any hassle from Bubba and his friends. Here is the Pileated in full regalia.
I told one of our Rochester birders about how easy it is to approach these birds on some occasions, and how difficult on others. He said that if they have a good feeding spot they are pretty tolerant of people. But if they are drilling as a means to establish territory during the mating and breeding season, they quickly fly off when approached, due partly to the fact that they have to get to the next point in their perimeter to announce their presence.
If you have any stories to share about observing Pileateds I’d love to hear them.