Whenever I spy a pileated woodpecker traversing the sky, I pause to watch its weird undulating flight. The jerky rise-and-drop movement of this large woodpecker is endearingly gawky – like a mini pterodactyl visiting from the Cretaceous period.
Come winter, after the bears have retreated to their cold weather dens, many backyard bird enthusiasts hang feeders to attract – and nourish – avian visitors. Birds need more than a supplemental food source, however.
Whether they are roosting, feeding, selecting a nest location, or flying from one grove of trees to another, birds rely on vegetative cover, from the ground level to the treetops. Offering natural sources of cover can help birds evade predators and find protection from inclement weather, as well as provide shelter during migration. [Read more…] about Shelter for the Birds: A Primer
Decayed wood crumbled underfoot as I stepped on a mossy log. The ground was almost hidden by a lush, diverse growth of wildflowers and ferns. Brown scapes of wild leeks poked up above mottled leaflets of Virginia waterleaf and heart-shaped leaves of wild ginger. A green canopy of mostly sugar maple and yellow birch towered overhead. As we climbed higher on the mountainside, the trees increased in height and girth. We were in an old-growth forest, a remnant of the forest that blanketed the Northeast before European settlement. The extremely steep slope had likely allowed it to escape the axe and saw before it was protected. [Read more…] about Understanding Our Old Forests
In the spring and summer many species of birds will set up nests in shrubs (catbirds and common yellowthroats) and on tree limbs (robins, orioles, or vireos). Chickadees, nuthatches, or woodpeckers may be nesting in tree cavities. These nests may be hard to spot from the ground. To protect birds, wait until the fall to cut or prune trees and shrubs if possible. Birds such as house wrens, phoebes, and Carolina wrens often get creative and build nests on decks, porches, or sheds. [Read more…] about Help Protect Nesting Birds in Your Field or Yard
One morning early, as I slept in our mountain cabin Mateskared, a woodpecker landed on the cabin’s wood siding. Its profound rapid-fire pecking jerked me out of sound sleep.
Did we have robo-termites?
Not in the Adirondacks. [Read more…] about Ed Zahniser: Woodpecker Wake-up Calls
In the first global test of the idea, scientists have found evidence that some woodpeckers can evolve to look like another species of woodpecker in the same neighborhood. The researchers say that this “plumage mimicry” isn’t a fluke – it happens among pairs of distantly related woodpeckers all over the world. [Read more…] about Some Woodpeckers Imitate a Neighbor’s Plumage
“That’s a downy. No wait, it’s a hairy – definitely a hairy. Well, hang on…maybe it is a downy.” I admit it: I’ve had this happen to me more than once. [Read more…] about Downy or Hairy Woodpecker?
A woodpecker frequently visits our feeder, alighting on the wooden supporting post and hopping up the post to the suet. Its medium size and striking markings – black wings spotted with white, a large white patch on the back, and a red spot on the back of the head – identify the bird as a male hairy woodpecker. The female, which also comes to our feeder, lacks the red patch on the head.
The hairy woodpecker is easy to confuse with its almost identical cousin, the downy woodpecker, another of our feeder guests. However, the hairy is about one-third larger than the downy and has a longer, sturdier bill – about the same length as its head. [Read more…] about Hairy Woodpecker: Insect Hunter Extraordinaire
While most natural winter sounds tend to carry only short distances, there is one that is loud enough to travel well over a hundred yards.
Even when the limbs and boughs are coated with an audio-absorbing layer of snow, the voice of the pileated woodpecker periodically breaks the silence and resounds through our mature woodlands. [Read more…] about Pileated Woodpeckers: Denizens Of Our Old Forests
Some of the most important trees in your woodlot are the ones that are no longer alive. Large, standing dead or dying trees are an important part of healthy forests and a critical habitat feature for wildlife. They provide places for many birds and mammals to forage, den, nest, perch, and roost. [Read more…] about Keep Standing Dead Trees in your Woodlot