Five species of woodpeckers inhabit the woods around our place. The largest, most colourful one is the Pileated woodpecker, who clearly resembles that crazy cartoon character we knew and loved as children. On rare occasions like the one in the photo above, Woody stops by our house for a treat of suet.
More often though, I only hear his maniacal cry or catch a brief glimpse of his pointy red head as he swoops wildly through the forest. But lately, I can hear him at work during daylight hours, producing a steady tapping sound in the forest. And any day of the week, year-round, I can see the results of his work: deep, rectangular holes in the trees.
Despite the fact that we have many trees on offer, Woody seems focused on one particular Western red cedar (Thuga plicata), as you can see in the photo below. To date we’ve counted 19 woodpecker holes in this tree, which grows in a tight linear clump, flanked by two Douglas firs and a smaller red cedar. The other three trees almost never get pecked.
I’m guessing that Woody’s favorite tree must be full of tasty carpenter ants, which form the main portion of a Pileated woodpecker’s diet. Since we live in a wooden house in the midst of a forest, I’m grateful for his steady work, as it may help prevent a future catastrophe for us.
In the meantime, I’ll need to keep my eye on this tree, as it could soon be a happening place for other animals as well. Woodpecker holes are used as nesting sites by a huge variety of birds and mammals including many songbirds, owls, bats and squirrels. A study by a UBC researcher found that in Canada, some woodpecker tree holes were used as many as 17 times in 13 years, by up to five different species.
Sounds like efficient use of real estate to me – well done, Woody!