Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What the Woodpecker Did

These lovely woodpecker holes were made by one or more of the local pileated woodpeckers, those clownish-looking Woody Woodpecker types that are a cousin of the larger and scarily elusive Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Most woodpecker-drilled holes are far up in a tree, certainly too high up for me to reach. But pileated woodpeckers, indeed most northerly species of woodpeckers, drill their holes near the base of trees. And since this lovely work of woodpecker art is at the end of my driveway, my investigation of these holes was an easy prospect.

I am somewhat ashamed to admit that these were the first woodpecker holes I’ve ever gotten up close and personal with. This seems as though it should have been something I did 30 years ago, but I didn’t (unless I’ve forgotten, which these days is a possibility). Oh, I know I’ve seen pileated woodpecker holes plenty of times, but I never actually took the time to stick my nose into one, as it were.

My first impression of the holes was a surprise. These holes go deep into the tree, all the way into the very center of this now-dead oak tree, far deeper than I expected. Another characteristic seen here, also typical of holes excavated by pileated woodpeckers, is the somewhat rectangular shape to the hole. Pileated woodpeckers are looking for ants when they are digging into these trees, though I wouldn’t have expected the ants to be this deep into the center of the tree. Obviously, I was wrong about that one.

The inside and bottom of the hole is solid, not soft with sawdust, as I expected. Currently, I have several nearby trees that show a lot of attention from the pileated woodpeckers. Sometimes, the birds will drill so deeply into a tree that it falls. That’s a possibility with this tree, if the woodpeckers keep at it. It’s a good thing my electric lines are buried, I guess, though there is that one pileated-drilled tree near the cabin that I’d better keep a closer eye on.


Dana Jones said...

Do the woodpeckers do this before the tree is dead or after? If before is there a way you can distract them away from trees you want to keep? I have one that visits my pine tree, just planted a year ago. I'd really like it to live.

Cathy said...

I keep forgetting to give you link.

I don't know if you saw this site, but it tracks the migration of Ruby throat hummingbird. Kinda neat to look.


Anonymous said...

"Holy Oak Tree Batman!" Pileated's are great. Size, beauty, and an interesting personality! Really, you may of experienced it already, but to come across one working over a fallen log or dead stump is quite an etertaining event. Thanks for sharing.

Carolyn H said...

Dana: Pileateds will do this on live trees that are infested with ants. The only time I bother to distract woodpeckers is when they start drumming on the cabin. I'm happy with whatever tree they choose to drill on, as long as they stay away from the cabin.

Cathy: thanks for the link. I'll check it out. I was just thinking about putting that hummer feeder up in the next week or so.

pa-birder: I love pileateds. They have kind of weird personality--such drama divas.

Carolyn H.