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A Magnificent Bird

I had a visit from a very shy bird, a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), last weekend.  It is the largest woodpecker around since the Ivory-billed (Campephilus principalis) is presumed extinct.   It is a crow-sized woodpecker, with a 17″ long body and a wingspan around 29″, according to National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Birds of North America by Edward S. Brinkley.  I knew they were in the neighborhood since I could hear them knocking.  Last year a mother took two chicks around to our garden a few times, but mostly they stay in the wooded areas away from people.   Only the Downey Woodpeckers (Picoides pubescens) seem to prefer easy pickings like the feeders rather than banging their brains out on trees for sustenance.  We have a lot of Downeys, more than we can count.  Some of them even roosted in our birdhouses.   The Red-bellied (Melanerpes carolinus) and the Northern Flickers (Colaptes auratus) are also common woodpeckers in the area.  Only once in a while would the Pileated  join their cousins in our garden.  Last weekend was one of them.

With a very loud hammering sound high up on the tree, too loud to be mistaken for a small woodpecker, I looked up and tried to locate the origin.   There he was, with a bright red Mohawk hairdo, hammering away at a tree trunk.   I dropped everything, grabbed a camera, and followed him from branch to branch.  He glanced at me from the above from time to time.  I’m glad he is around and trusted me enough not to fly away as soon as he saw me.   Here is a magnificent bird and some cousins.  Hopefully they won’t follow the Ivory-billed down the extinction path.

On a tree trunk observing me

Paused between pulling off the bark

Inspecting the bottom side of the trunk

A male Red-bellied Woodpecker taking off after grabbing a nut from the feeder

A male Northern Flicker Woodpecker looking for either ants or seeds

Mother Downey waiting patiently for her son to finish eating