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And A Pileated New Year!

January 2, 2014

Imagine dozing away, all huddled for warmth in your cozy winter home when suddenly there is a “humungous” pounding followed by the sounds of splintering wood. Scenes from a horror movie? From a reality show about home construction gone wrong? No, just a common winter experience for ants in the Kootenays when a Pileated Woodpecker comes to call.

A pause in pounding away on the cedar trunk looking for ants dozing in winter

Pounding away on the cedar trunk looking for ants  in winter

Max and I were walking in the woods out back when I heard the sound of Pileated Woodpeckers calling. We followed the sound and came upon a male Pileated Woodpecker drilling away at a cedar tree in his search for the ants that live in the tree. Ants often use Western Red Cedars to construct the galleries of their nest. The tree survives quite nicely because the living part of the trunk is the outside cambium of the tree (the part under the bark) and the ants use the center of the tree. Even the large holes excavated by Pileated Woodpeckers grow over in a few years.

The woodpecker continued to work his way into the bark while Max and I sat a few meters away. We watched the bird for about half an hour before leaving it to continue feeding.

Searching for ants in winter

Searching for ants in winter

Max “stayed” the entire time. He was very interested in the large bird, but is used to staying behind me quietly while I take photos. Who said German Shepherds don’t make good “bird dogs”!

Max "on stay" watching the Pileated Woodpecker

Max “on stay” – a great bird dog!

all photos, videos and writing copyright J.A. Siderius, 2014.

  1. sharon wieder permalink

    What a fantastic picture of the woodpecker! Glad I’m not one of the ants. : ) It amazes me how perfectly round the woodpecker holes are. How do they know how to make perfect circles? sharon

    • Hi Sharon – It is the nesting holes that are usually round, Sharon, but Pileated Woodpeckers usually make large oblong holes when they feed. I don’t know how they know to make the nesting holes round, but they are usually just large enough to let the bird in and out – maybe they know they are making a nesting hole and stop when it is large enough to let them into the nesting chamber? Good question!

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