Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Pileated Woodpeckers in Northern Maine
There have been a bunch of recent reports of Pileated Woodpeckers in central Aroostook County. These big birds are increasingly active and vocal now that days have started getting longer and their (early) breeding season is approaching. Paul Cyr found a female feeding in the woods behind his home in Presque Isle on the 19th and sent over this great sequence of photos of the attractive bird.
The bird was feeding a dead standing hardwood tree. In the winter these woodpeckers spend alot of time excavating the big rectangular feeding holes as they search for their favorite food- Carpenter Ants. You can see the dark ant galleries in the side of the
lower excavation in this picture.
Paul got a perfectly timed shot of the bird as it chiseled away at the side of the hole. You can also see the nictitating membrane (a second clear eyelid) that these birds deploy as a kind of safety goggle when they are chipping out wood.
We can tell this is a female since the red on the crest doesn't extend down to the bill and the lower cheek (malar) stripe is black rather than bright red as in males.
Nesting holes are usually round and are typically hard to spot. To help conceal these, the holes usually have no scaling of the bark around them (like here) and there never any other feeding holes on the trunk of the nesting tree. The nest cavities are also in larger diameter trees that can accommodate the incubating adults or several growing youngsters. This tree is probably a tad too small for a nest cavity.