It was 16 degrees below zero and the suet feeders were empty. This pair of pileated woodpeckers landed on the trunk of one of the tall trees between the lake and our front room windows and started bobbing around. Steve imagined they were saying “get out here and fill these feeders ‘cuz we’re hungry and cold.”
He bundled up, filled the feeders, and of course these big guys are shy and so they’d flown off. But when he came back inside, the pair quickly flew back and stayed at the feeders for a good long time.
The male is the one with the red mustache on the log feeder. The female is at the paddle feeder. Pileateds have wingspans from 26 to 30 inches. The adults are 16 to 19 inches from crest to tail. We’re happy to give them some help getting through the winter.
We’ve had some fine bird viewing this winter. We serve a late lunch most days to pileated woodpeckers. One male, one female. You can tell, by his red mustache, that this is the male. The suet paddle feeder is their favorite lunch spot. That’s a hairy woodpecker on the log feeder and a black-capped chickadee flying in for seeds.
It was a snowy day, with high winds. The night was wicked, with rain, heavy sleet, then snow and plummeting temperatures. Maybe our food helped some make it through the tough night.
Last winter, when this photo was taken from our great room window, we were amazed to see this guy. He’s supposedly shy. Wary. Needs lots of elbow room–something like 400 acres per bird. Yipes. We felt honored he trusted our suet. He soon became a regular visitor, late in the day, after the riff raff finch hordes departed. He always preferred the suet feeder that allows woodpeckers to eat while getting some purchase by pressing their tail against the paddle just like they would against a tree. You can tell he’s a him because of the red mustache. Sometimes a female would visit the feeder (no red mustache, the same red hairdo), but they never came together. Dryocopus Pileatus a/k/a Woody Woodpecker eats tons of bugs, primarily carpenter ants and woodboring beetle larvae. He uses his powerful beak to excavate tree trunks and then uses his long barbed tongue and sticky spit to slurps up ants and larvae from their tunnels in the bark. I don’t even want to think about what must be in that suet they like so much.
These birds are the largest woodpeckers in North America. Except if you believe that the long-thought-to-be-extinct Ivory Billed Woodpecker has really been rediscovered in eastern Arkansas. The Pileated is 15.7 to 19.3 inches long. Think about that for a minute. It’s as big as the biggest crows. Its wingspan is 26 to 29 inches. Pileateds have a lovely call, something like chalk being pressed fast and too hard on a blackboard. Their call does not resemble Woody’s famous “ha-ha-ha-HAA-ha.” The sound of their pecking at trees is most impressive. Maybe scientists should study how Pileated’s brains are insulated from such jackhammer shock forces. They could probably save the brain functioning of more than a few motorcyclists.
A few weeks ago, the Long Lake Suet Cafe was visited by mom, dad, and “baby.” We even watched the parents take a chunk of suet and feed it to “baby.” Forgive the photo. The light was dim. The birds weren’t sitting still. But triple wow what a sight!