Editor’s be aware: This story was initially printed in December 2020.
We might be taught rather a lot from a woodpecker. Listed here are only a few classes.
Work laborious to realize your targets. Right now’s column is impressed by a pileated woodpecker that has taken a shine to a hemlock simply past my storage. He has returned to that tree repeatedly, hammering the snot out of it. There are over 60 holes within the tree. It’s laborious to say whether or not there’s one thing scrumptious in there, or if he’s demonstrating his hole-drilling abilities to impress a girl. I think the latter. Woodpeckers pair up early.
Get together with others. Mainly, most woodpecker species eat the identical meals, largely bugs, primarily wood-boring beetles and larvae, ants, moths and an occasional spider or two. Woodpeckers needs to be opponents with one another, but all of them appear to get alongside simply high-quality. I see furry and downy woodpeckers collectively on the identical department, generally close to a yellow-bellied sapsucker. Up within the north woods, I see uncommon black-backed woodpeckers sharing timber with furry woodpeckers. I see black-backs sharing timber with the even rarer American three-toed woodpecker. I don’t recall ever seeing interspecies squabbling.
Communicate when you might have one thing to say. Woodpeckers keep away from battle by calling and drumming rather a lot, letting one another know the place they’re, particularly throughout mating season. They even name when they’re approaching my yard feeders. Thus, they keep away from by accident wandering into territorial disputes.
Know when to be quiet. A number of years in the past, I used to be close to Nesowadnehunk Lake west of Baxter State Park, watching a uncommon American three-toed woodpecker. All of a sudden, I noticed a Cooper’s hawk approaching. So did the woodpecker. We each had the identical thought: “Uh-oh.” Woodpeckers are neither quick nor agile flyers. They can not outrace a speedy raptor. My chook didn’t even take into consideration attempting to flee. He pressed in opposition to the bark and froze, silently. He remained that approach for quarter-hour. By then, hazard was lengthy gone. He returned to feeding.
Costume sensibly. Most woodpeckers embrace the “freeze in opposition to the bark” protection technique. Accordingly, they sport bark-like plumage patterns. What number of instances have you ever heard a woodpecker tapping within the tree above your head, however couldn’t shortly lay eyes on it? Final 12 months, I encountered a downy woodpecker below menace from an unseen predator. It was pressed in opposition to the bark of a birch tree. All of a sudden, the black-and-white woodpecker sample made sense. The chook nearly disappeared proper in entrance of my eyes. That again coloration sample is widespread to a few woodpecker species within the east, and plenty of extra within the western states.
Black-backed woodpeckers have black backs – pitch black, the charcoal shade of burnt timber. It figures as a result of they’re specialists in areas of disturbed spruce forest, significantly burn areas. Pressed in opposition to a tree, the black again blends proper in. American three-toed woodpeckers are very related, besides that they’ve a white space bisecting the black. This camouflage sample is much like the opposite woodpeckers that conceal in opposition to bark.
Respect girls. The pileated woodpecker — Maine’s largest species of woodpecker — is just too huge for many raptors to hunt. Three woodland hawks prey on different birds: sharp-shinned hawks, Cooper’s hawks and northern goshawks. Sharp-shinned hawks are roughly the scale of blue jays — too small to tangle with a pileated woodpecker. Cooper’s hawks are roughly crow-size — about the identical dimension as a pileated woodpecker. Whereas a male Cooper’s hawk will probably be tempted to ambush a pileated woodpecker, his odds of success aren’t nice. Nonetheless, females are bigger than males in most hawk species. It’s the bigger feminine Cooper’s hawk that poses the larger menace. Sadly for pileated woodpeckers, each genders of the burly northern goshawk can take a woodpecker with little effort. Disguise.
Don’t be a choosy eater. Whereas woodpeckers dine totally on insect life, they’re not above supplementing their diets when vital. They like yard suet, will chow down on sunflower seeds as wanted and can eat berries.
There are eight species of woodpecker nesting in Maine, together with the red-bellied woodpeckers which have not too long ago moved north. Solely two woodpecker species are pressured emigrate through the chilly climate months. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers earned the title on account of their apply of drilling honeycomb patterns of holes into timber. When sap oozes out, bugs turn out to be caught, making them straightforward pickings for sapsuckers. In winter, sap doesn’t ooze. Sapsuckers go away. Northern sparkles dine on ants greater than the opposite woodpeckers do. They typically feed on the bottom. In winter, no ants. Glints go away.
In fact, some woodpecker classes are finest left untried. I’d counsel not banging your head in opposition to a tree.
Bob Duchesne serves as vp of Maine Audubon’s Penobscot Valley Chapter. He developed the Maine Birding Path, with info at mainebirdingtrail.com. He may be reached at [email protected].