25 June 2011

visit from woody

We had a visit from our resident female Pileated Woodpecker this morning.  I am always taken aback at how large these birds are, as big as a crow, and actually the largest woodpecker in North America.  And their ability to hold their entire weight with three toes, while repeatedly almost knocking themselves unconscious just trying to score a meal.

Photo: Hilke Breder

These are a couple shots from a few months back looking out the window at an adult male (excuse the photo quality, they are quick little buggers)...

The males have a red mustache, while the females have a black one.

We are lucky to have this pair in our backyard; they require 40 hectares of old-growth forest and each pair defends this territory year round.

Each year, a new hole is excavated in a dead or dying tree for their nest.  These holes can get so big it can actually break the tree in half.  Both the male and the female incubate 3-5 eggs for about two weeks, and they have even been seen moving their eggs to another site if they find their nest not suitable.

My aunt and uncle have a beautiful piece of property about three hours north of us, and while out walking in their forest last week they were attacked by the female, apparently trying to protect her young!

Too cool!  The babies won't get their red mohawks until they're old enough to fly.

These birds hammer away up to 20,000 times per day, so they have developed a reinforced skull structure to spread the impact of the force.  Their nasal openings have tiny feathers that filter out all the dust and debris from excavating these holes and foraging for carpenter ants and beetles.

Okay Bill Nye, time to tone it down a notch.

I will leave you with a movie clip that I filmed last fall in our backyard.


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