Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pileated Woodpeckers And Plastic Trees

We were pleasantly surprised when a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers showed up for dinner in our front yard.
Pileated Woodpecker
   I noticed these huge woodpeckers on the Black Locust saplings by the riverbank.  I've seen them here before, but never with my Nikon and zoom lens at hand.  Several of the children rushed over to see what I was exclaiming about.  As I piled out of the window (the door was the wrong direction) to snap some photos, I heard  my youngest son reciting a poem about woodpeckers and plastic trees.  The poem is still bouncing around in my head, so I'll include it here.


The saddest thing I ever did see
Was a woodpecker peckin' at a plastic tree.
He looks at me, and "Friend," says he,
"Things ain't as sweet as they used to be."
                                                 -Shel Silverstein

   Fortunately we have real trees in our fencerows, not plastic fence posts.  The female Pileated Woodpecker lingered a long time on this dead sapling.
Pileated Woodpecker
Since Carpenter Ants have an affinity for making tunnels and nests in Black Locust trees, I assume she was feeding on them.  In the photo below, the woodpecker's tongue is visible as she probes for ants or insects.
She spent quite a while at one spot.  I went out later to see what kept her there.  It was a small knot hole barely big enough for my finger.  I peered down the knot hole and could see the sapling was hollow...
...but I couldn't see any ants. I suspect the woodpecker was probing around in the dark depths of the tree with its super long tongue and cleaned out the ants or whatever was holed up there.
  I wouldn't stick my tongue into a hole in a tree with unknown contents.  I'll leave that to the woodpeckers.
Female Pileated Woodpecker
Incidentally, there are two branch stubs in the picture above that nicely frame the woodpecker's body.  I measured their distance apart to give some scale to the bird....looks like about 9 inches plus neck, head, and tail.
Good-sized woodpecker, eh?!
Uh oh, she is about ready to fly away.
Her mate is calling from the other side of the river.
Stop by anytime, big plastic trees here!


  1. I love Shel Silverstein and his brilliant books.

    I think these are pretty rare birds Dana ? I saw a couple of them from a distance, when I lived in Ontario. They are BIG birds aren't they.

    I met a chap who said he'd seen them at Admiral Cove, so I'll be keeping an eye out for them the next time I go.

  2. Sybil,
    I don't know if the Pileated are rare, or not. They seem fairly common in my experience.
    They ARE big...about crow-sized.
    Good luck at Admiral Cove! I guess you never know where they will show up...Last spring I saw a Pileated in a sumac bush along a dirt road. It was eating sumac berries. I stopped right there under the bush and then remembered my camera. It flew before I got a shot.

  3. Dana,

    I "think" they are pretty uncommon here in Nova Scotia. Haven't seen any since I arrived here two years ago.

  4. Anonymous12/16/2011

    this is my favorite. have a blessed christmas.