It is not that I had never heard about woodpeckers until I went to Oka National Park, but it was the first time I had seen one that was not stuffed and sitting in a display in a museum. My total knowledge of the woodpecker was what up to then I had gleaned from the Woody Woodpecker Show and if you ever saw that children’s cartoon you know now that I knew nothing at all about woodpeckers. As always it seems that I discover something new trying to learn about something else and so it was no different when I saw, rather than heard my first woodpecker in the wild at Oka National Park. The day was April 12 and I had been following a loud thumping sound and it was taking me deeper into the woods. I had been looking to see deer that day while the leaves were still for the most part still off of the trees, or geese, or ducks on the water, but for the first 15 to 30 minutes all I heard was a the thumping that seemed to stop as I got closer to it and then move a little further down the trail. Then I saw a flash of red a short distance away on a tree and the head was moving to the beat of the thumps. I could not make out the body because all of the trees were grey with patches of black and the bird was perfectly camouflaged except for that White patch of feathers under its neck and that red crowned head that kept moving up and down to the beat. As I focused in with my camera I noticed that the body and wing feathers seemed to be all black and so while its wings remained close to its body the Woodpecker all but disappeared into the back round. It wasn’t until I returned home that I learned that it was a Pileated Woodpecker and that they were the largest woodpecker found in North America.
With the push of a button and a quick search on Google I was looking at my bird and with a short hop over to Wikipedia I was learning about the Pileated Woodpecker. I learned that where you find Poison Ivy you have a good chance to find the Pileated Woodpecker, because these birds eat the Poison Ivy Berry along with carpenter ants and wood burrowing beetle larvae. Now I knew that their abandoned nests were used by birds, but I never would have guessed that the openings of the Pileated Woodpecker’s abandoned nests were large enough for raccoons use, or that the nests had multiple entrances and therefore exits. Now they are frowned upon by home owners with decorative trees who accuse woodpeckers of damage to their trees with their searching for insects and there people would rather not have them on their private acreage, but I think when you consider the total ecological value that the Pileated Woodpecker and all woodpeckers bring to their environment, we should begin to understand that we cannot afford to lose them and welcome them. These are few of the things I thought you would like to know because I found them Interesting, but if you would like to know more Google Pileated Woodpecker. One more interesting fact is that although Pileated Woodpeckers are not on the endangered species list and are not migratory birds they are protected under the United State Migratory Bird Act.
Now the Downy Woodpecker is smaller than the Pileated Woodpecker by about a foot in length, the Pileated Woodpecker being nearly 2 feet long. It is distinguishable from the Hairy Woodpecker in size and by the Hairy Woodpecker’s white markings on its tail. Both of these woodpeckers are mostly black on their backs with white pecks and white bellies. The Downy Woodpecker was one of the first creatures I saw on the trail I chose and hammered on the trunk of a tree as well as a rotten log on the ground. The Downy Woodpecker makes its nest in the hollow it has made in a tree and like the Pileated Woodpecker it will have multiple entrances and exits and it will only use the nest for one season making other birds like the tree nesting duck , or an owl a ready-made home. Wood chips are often the only lining of the nests, the woodpecker nest the bird nest. I watched for over 30 minutes and took video as well as still photos of this the smallest woodpecker in North America do its handy work.
Did You Know That:
- Unlike other species, such as the Red-headed Woodpecker and the Pileated Woodpecker, the Downy Woodpeckers do not cache, or hide, food for winter?
- During the winter a pair of Downy Woodpeckers may do a thorough job of ridding an infested tree of tiny scale insects?
- More than 75 percent of the bird’s diet consists of insects, a large portion of which include wood-boring beetles and other insects that affect the economy?
- One study has shown that Downy Woodpeckers reduced the overwintering population of codling moths, a major threat to apple orchards and other fruit-growing operations, by 52 percent?
- During the 1950s and 1960s, the Downy Woodpecker in eastern North America fed extensively on the elm bark beetle, which was responsible for dispersing Dutch elm disease?
- Woodpeckers possess long barbed, sticky tongues which they use to extract harmful insects out of crevices in trees?
Again these facts are made available on the internet in an easy way to understand all of the hard work being done by people with far greater knowledge of how to study and identify, gather and put together all of this information than I, like the article entitled, “Hinterland Who’s – Who Downy Woodpecker”. This enables people like you and I to learn about nature and animals and pass the information on to others empowering them with the knowledge that we have acquired and to get involved in working to make tis planet a clean, safe place for everything on it and we get it all for free.
What is my point is you might be wondering with all of these little facts,well it is this, ”In feeding themselves these little birds are a natural way that nature has of taking care of trees; they are tree specialists if you will with different size woodpeckers feeding on different parts of the trees made possible by their individual sizes and eating and caching habits. These birds work tirelessly from early morning until sundown, with some woodpeckers working hard all year round and ask only the bugs they uncover as payment for their hard work. It is not the woodpecker that does permanent damage to an area it is man’s cutting back on an area’s population of trees that lessens the number of woodpeckers in an area and allows insect populations to flourish raising them to dangerous levels forcing the usage of pesticides harmful to everything on the planet”.
In the air the Downy Woodpecker is hunted by hawks and such that catch them in flight. In their nests their eggs and young are eaten by squirrels and the Black Rat Snake as food. I say that, “Man would be wise to recognize that these little birds are something to be cherished and honored for their hard work and not looked at as destroyers of decorative trees a creature to be shunned from gardens and backyards. I think what they take away from the world is much less than they give back and we could learn from them.” Consider this. woodpeckers would not be pecking on those trees if there were no insects under the bark already causing irreversible damage to the tree.
These are the only two woodpecker types that I have been able to capture with my camera so far. Finally this is a fine example of natures way of taking care of this planet all on its own and how when left alone and not forced it has inbuilt mechanism to right itself.
I believe that everything on this planet is here for a reason and just because we do not understand what that reason is does not mean it is not important to our very existence.
- Woodpeckers: Downy vs. Hairy (memosforme.wordpress.com)
- Pileated Woodpecker Makes Early Spring Visit (mywebduck.typepad.com)
- Project 365 – Day 291: Woodpeckers, a squirrel and leaves on Mount Royal (montrealinpictures.wordpress.com)
- The Birds or Please Flock Off part I (richardjleephotography.com)
- Conservation Areas Woodland Parks and Bird Sanctuaries Found In The Greater Montreal Area Part Four / Cap Saint Jacques Nature Park (docdavis15.wordpress.com)