As we travel through this journey of life, we sometimes become so accustomed to our routine tasks of the day that we don’t give a thought to some of the essential things around us. Air. We use it every second of our existence and can’t live without it, but when do we express thanks for it? Water. Not much is as satisfying as a long drink of cool water, but we just assume it’s clean and won’t do us any harm. Love. A look, a touch, a word from someone you love and who loves you in return – how marvelous! How often do we enjoy this precious commodity and how often do we acknowledge it? (When is the last time you unexpectedly told someone: “I love you.”? — Now is a good time!)
It’s easy to take things for granted. Sometimes, we do so out of complete ignorance. That’s the way it is with woodpeckers.
Growing up in Florida, living in other states, visiting Europe – there were always woodpeckers.
The flash of black and white and a bright scarlet head always commanded attention when a Red-headed Woodpecker dashed between trees. Locally, they’re in real trouble due to their special habitat requirements and our disregard for providing it.
An older home had a chimney which had been “bird-proofed” with a metal cover. A Pileated Woodpecker found the cover to be an ideal transmitter during mating season and we awoke during spring mornings to the amplified drumming echoing throughout the house, the fireplace acting as an effective loudspeaker.
The dainty-looking Downy Woodpecker has a bill that looks like it couldn’t punch a hole in paper, much less excavate a nesting cavity in a tree. We were privileged one year to observe a pair from the living room window as they raised a family in a maple tree in the yard.
Adaptation is a key to survival and the Red-bellied Woodpecker has learned this lesson quite well. They are common visitors to back yard feeding stations and are abundant in almost any environment in the area.
A ring of small holes completely around a branch identifies the hunting territory for the handsome Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. It really does consume some of the tree sap during its search for insects.
A Northern Flicker always looks like it just stepped out of a salon with its neat appearance. Although it’s a woodpecker, it spends most of its time on the ground slurping up ants with a long, sticky tongue.
We were just recently fortunate to find our first Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. These birds breed cooperatively, the sons of prior generations helping to raise the families of current birds. Holes are drilled in living pine trees and the sap allowed to run down the trunk. It’s believed this deters snakes from approaching the nest cavity. Not that long ago, they inhabited Florida’s old-growth pine forests by the tens of thousands. Sadly, loss of habitat to lumbering and development has reduced their number so drastically they are now a federal and state endangered species.
So, I was stunned to discover there are parts of the world where no woodpeckers exist. Folks in Australia, New Zealand and Madagascar don’t get to enjoy these lords of the woods. This post is dedicated to anyone who has never seen these colorful winged loggers with the chiseled beaks, never climbed a tree to peer into a round cavity for a chance to see if there are eggs or chicks in there or never marveled at a bird clinging vertically to a tree trunk as it scoots up and pries off a piece of bark to reveal its prize.
Please enjoy a few of our Florida woodpeckers.
Red-Headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis)
For the rest of us, let’s try not to take for granted these particular treasures Nature has provided.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!
See more birds at: Paying Ready Attention (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)