Use the talents you possess—
for the woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except for the best.
-Henry Van Dyke
When I was a kid my dad would take us hiking. (Since we had no car, this first involved walking 6 miles to the park in question. And then 6 miles back home. Yes, I’m still bitter.)
Every so often, he’d motion for us to stop and be quiet. “Do you hear that?”
And we’d listen for the far-off drumming of a woodpecker.
I never saw a woodpecker until we moved here. But now? I see them every day. Every morning at 10am I take part in a conference call and just outside my bedroom window, two pileated woodpeckers are having a grand ol’ time, chattering and laughing away as they look for a mid-morning snack. I can’t even begin to imagine what my co-workers must think is going on over here.
Daily Woody Woodpecker marathons?
In any case, apparently these woodpeckers weren’t commonly seen around here when I was young, but their numbers have filled out nicely and most alert birdwatchers have a good chance of spying one while strolling through the woods.
A 100% chance if you happen to be strolling by my bedroom window at 10am on a weekday.
Quick Pileated Woodpecker facts:
Crow sized: 16-19″ long
This photo is a female; her “mustache” is black. On a male it would be red.
Woodpeckers have stiff tail feathers to counter-balance their drumming. The tips can puncture paper.
The bones of woodpecker skulls are super-thick and surrounded by super-strong muscles. This is how they avoid massive migraines. (You know you were wondering.)
Their tongues are twice as long as the beak and coated with sticky saliva, as well as equipped with barbs and bristles. Think of it as a bottlebrush scrubbing your trees of insects.
Pileated woodpeckers are long-term monogamous and share egg incubation duties.
If you want to entice visiting woodpeckers to set up shop in your yard, I’ve seen them enjoying dried corn cobs, sunflower seeds, peanuts and those caged suet blocks.
These birds eat the insects from and nest in dead wood, primarily. The worst threat to them as a species is the continued practice of clearing away dead trees.
In spite of the slam I took with my quote there at the open, their call, while not lovely, makes me smile inside every time I hear it.
This is footage of a woodpecker laugh I got from YouTube. I should say that I have got to the point where I can distinguish between our two by their call, so when I listen to this I think, “That’s not quite right.” Much like human voices, I guess. I’ll have to get them on video. They banter back and forth and I always imagine they’re telling jokes and then throwing their head back with laughter.
It’s saying things like that, I suppose, that make me seem endearing to those who know me well. And crazy to those that don’t.
What’s made you smile today?