Monday, March 22, 2010

March 22: Woodpecker

As I logged on to write my post for this afternoon, knowing I wanted to write about the pileated woodpecker I saw this morning, I had to laugh--two other bird blogs that I follow had also posted something about pileated woodpeckers: the Stokes Birding Blog (though mostly about the ivory-billed) and   the Mass. Breeding Bird Atlas blog. For the record, I did not, however, laugh like Woody Woodpecker (who is, by all appearances, a pileated woodpecker), although my mother has been known to do a mean imitation of the cartoon character.

I was greeted by that crazy laughter (from the real bird, not my mother or Woody) this morning as I walked into the office. Pileated woodpeckers are particularly vocal this time of year as they noisily establish their territorial dominance and their need for a good woman by both calling and loudly drumming on whatever will make the most noise. Spring is in their veins. They have large territories, and their drumming can resonate over a mile; I'm sure the pair that hangs out here at the office is the same one I see in my own yard at the other end of the street.

After hearing his wild cackling off and on for the past few weeks, I finally got to see the male this morning thanks to an alert co-worker whose window faces the woods. He called us in and we all watched the big ol' woodpecker flap into the woods. Those flashy white wing patches and bright red crest and facial splash make him stand out among the bare trunks. He is our largest woodpecker, after all. A bird like that doesn't exactly keep a low profile.

Interesting side notes: The pileated's pointy "cap" is actually the source of its odd name: it means "having a crest." And for those who care about such things, you can pronounce it PILL-e-ated or PILE-e-ated.

A few summers ago, this female was so intent on eating grubs from this rotten stump outside the Land Trust office that she paid no attention to my presence.

Red-crowned and laughing--
raucous king of the forest,
I think she hears you!

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