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AiC Blog

Pileated Woodpeckers Arrive!

Posted on February 27, 2014 at 11:05 AM

*Note:  This particular Blog category covering outdoor happenings on the Burns Family property has been named "Wildlife Way Journal" in recognition of the name given to our driveway leading to our 6-acre upland property.  

    After seven years of feeding birds on the Burns property we finally were rewarded with the visit of a pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) on our top suet feeder!  

    At 8 a.m. on Tuesday, February 18th of 2014, Amy was in the kitchen looking out the window when the large bird swooped down to perch on the main vertical post holding a square suet cage.  The woodpecker proceeded to pick away at the suet, a ten ounce Scotts Morning Song Year-Round cake containing rendered beef suet, black oil sunflower and white millet, remaining in place long enough for Amy to take a digital photo (see image on our Home page) with her Sony Cyber-Shot.  Upon capturing the image, Amy excitedly announced the sighting to the rest of the family.  Although we all arrived at the viewing window too late to see the bird, we enjoyed viewing the exciting screen images of our new visitor.  I noticed right away that the individual was a male bird because of the distinctive red 'mustache' below the bill.  The female pileated doesn't sport this feature.    

    For years I was envious of a Gull Lake area client of mine who had a pair of pileateds regularly visiting his feeder arrangement.  Being amused at my interest in the pair, he announced:  "You can have mine - they're hogs at the feeder and scare other birds away."  On subsequent mornings since the first sighting I am beginning to see what the client was referencing in his comments to me.  The male bird returned to our feeder, but this time his mate was in tow.  Together the pair took turns winging past the feeder flashing their huge, gaudy black-and-white wings.  In doing so they easily scared all the other birds, including the aggressive blue jays and northern flickers, off the feeder.  With the feeder cleared they set about helping themselves to the suet cake.  Over a three day period of this they had the ten ounce cake reduced to half its original size.  They even managed to pry open the suet cage dislodging the remaining suet on to the ground!  Interestingly, they haven't visited the nearby hanging log feeder with suet logs in the holes yet.  

    Enter Natika, our Siberian husky, into the mix.  I must admit that she has been both a bane and a blessing in the four years that we have had her. Bane in that she regularly flushes birds off the feeder that we want to view.  Blessing in that she has reduced the rabbit, woodchuck and deer visits to our yard - resulting in a successful vegetable and native wildflower garden.  With the pileateds being wary of humans and their pets, Natika has been able to limit the pair's feeder visits to the early morning hours.  I've since re-loaded the suet cage and zip-tied the door shut to prevent a repeat of the last incident!

    Pigs at the feeder they may be, but I still embrace the presence of our new feeder friends.  Pileated woodpeckers with their regal look rank at the top of my "personal favorites" list.  They remind me of the majestic, now believed to be extinct, ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) which they most likely are genetically related to.  Hopefully continuing biological research will shed light on what mechanism was responsible for the rapid diversification of wildlife family groups into the various genus clumps and species that we observe today.  

    The arrival of the pileated woodpecker brings our grand total bird count to 38 species on our feeder arrangement!

- Jim Burns


Categories: Wildlife Way Journal

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