Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pileated Woodpeckers

Photo © Tom Munson

This morning while walking along our driveway, I was reminded of forest space by the call of one of the more charismatic birds in the swamp and upland forests surrounding Beaver Creek Marsh, the pileated woodpecker.  This woodpecker is the size of a crow and has a distinctive red crest and loud call that we refer to as the tiki bird.  You can hear it through the forest and it makes you laugh in its resounding exuberance.  Sometimes they swoop up into a nearby tree and look down with a cocked head, checking out my presence with a careful curiosity.  They go about the business of finding bugs, listening carefully for insect noise and then enthusiastically stripping off bark and making large and smaller rectangular holes in dead and dying trees.  These holes may later be used by many other birds and bugs for living, feeding, and nesting spaces.  The woodpeckers also make larger cavities for nesting in older trees that have not fallen from the effects of decay.  This woodpecker definitely changes the forest landscape for the spontaneous benefit of many other inhabitants.  Contemplating the vibration and shock from which the bird’s brain must be cushioned by such bill pounding is a spellbinding task.  I am left with a sense of wonder at how this bird has adapted its body and behavior to the resources at hand and touches the lives of so many other forest inhabitants.  It has left impressions all over the snag trees that border the marsh and is completely at home pounding and calling to fill the forest and marsh with resonant reminders of the wild side.  It is a privilege to be in their living room while witnessing the steady search for food.

Posted by michael

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