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Nature Speak 701



Pileated Woodpecker

( Dryocopus pileatus )

With the probable extinction of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, the Pileated Woodpecker is now the largest and most spectacular among North America’s 20 Woodpecker species. It is easily identified by the flaming red crest atop its black-masked white face. In flight, the mostly black bird will flash white underneath.

You may be alerted to its presence by its loud call or the drumming of the pickaxe-like strokes of its long bill in search of carpenter ants or insect larvae in rotting trees. Woodpeckers are equipped with an extra layer in their skull to absorb the shock of this hammering, and this provided the model for early development of football helmets. The hammering also serves to attract mates, to defend its territory, or to excavate nesting sites.

The Pileated Woodpecker requires mature trees at least 2 feet in diameter, either deciduous or coniferous, for nesting. Typically, 3-5 eggs are laid in April atop the sawdust and woodchips left on the cavity floor. After the nest is abandoned, the hole may be used by screech owls, wood ducks and squirrels.

Each individual Pileated Woodpecker has a range of about 1,000 acres, so loss of habitat provides reasons for concern about their future. A male and female Pileated Woodpecker were sighted in Alpine Meadows this week. Perhaps this area falls within the range of both; or perhaps we should be preparing for an early spring, with these two exhibiting telltale signs of spring fever.

(Please contact Leigh Edwards at to report sightings.)


Upcoming Events :

Jan. 19 - Wildflower Sketching with Isobel MacLaurin , 7-9 p.m. Contact Mitch Sulkers (932-3707) to register.

Feb. 5 - Monthly Bird Walk . Meet at the base of Lorimer Road at 8 a.m. Contact Michael Thompson (932-5010) for more information.

Feb. 6 - Nature on Snowshoes (Noon-4 p.m.). Contact Marlene Siemens (938-9690) to register.

To join the Whistler Naturalists, please call Bob Brett (938-8900) or Marlene Siemens (938-9690).

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