Finally summer and time to rent the cottage on Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City, Michigan. It was one of those sun filled afternoons just perfect for a nap. I heard the sound of horses clip clopping down the road….I loved to watch the horses. I looked out the window, there was not a horse to be seen. What was that noise then? There in a dead tree was a bird, a bird unknown to me. I found a bird identification book….a Pileated Woodpecker….so there was a Woody Woodpecker.
A few years later we made Old Mission Peninsula our home and have come to know this woodpecker well. Being one of the largest birds to live in the forest it seeks out mature trees accompanied by a good number of dead trees for its home. Their territories are large and protected year around. Having strong skulls, long beaks housing a long barred tongues makes it possible for the Pileated Woodpecker to get its nourishment. Carpenter ants make up 40-97% of their diet. They will also dine on wood beetle larva, termites, cockroaches in addition to some fruits and nuts. Suet in a backyard feeder is not out of the question for this feathered fellow.
As we walk in the woods my husband and I look for the rectangular holes drilled to find food only by the Pileated woodpecker. When it is time for the male to make a nest he creates a oblong hole that can be 16-24 inches deep. The nests are used only once by the birds. Owls, ducks, bats and pine martins will move in in later years. As the woodpecker carves it makes a drumming sound, like horses walking down an asphalt road. When we hear this sound we search for this majestic bird.
Fortunately the Pileated Woodpecker is fairly common with a worldwide population of 1.9 million birds 67% of which live in the United States and Canada. Next time you are walking in the wood look for these prehistoric looking birds.
Click for video by Chris Rieser.