A great variety of woodpeckers live in our forest. Some of these woodpeckers are in serious decline in other areas of the country. Because of the diversity of trees, presence of live, mature trees, dying trees and snags or standing dead trees, and the occasional burn, these drummers of the forest are able to thrive here.
The Acorn Woodpecker is the most commonly seen woodpecker. The are quite gregarious and vocal when they greet each other. Be on the lookout for one of their "granary" trees. This is where an extended family of Acorn Woodpeckers drills holes and hammers thousands of acorns into the bark of a tree each year. This enables them to have food through the Winter.
White-headed Woodpeckers are a threatened species because of habitat loss in many areas. They have a preference for large diameter, mature, pine trees. They forage on these old trees probing in the bark for insects and larvae. Later in the year, they extract seeds out of pinecones. Ponderosa, Jeffrey, Sugar and Coulter Pines are their favorite trees.
Woodpeckers are an essential contributor to a healthy forest. Most of them excavate nest cavities in dead or dying trees. Since they don't reuse their nest site the following year, other birds or mammals who rely on tree cavities for nesting benefit. They also help the forest by their consumption of beetles that infest trees. Over 50% of these potentially destructive insects are consumed by woodpeckers.
The Northern Flicker is different than most woodpeckers. First, its beak is slightly decurved, making it difficult to excavate its own nest cavity. It relies on previously created nesting sites most of the time. It spends more time foraging on the ground than in the tree because it prefers eating ants. Its sticky tongue is extra long enabling it to probe into ant burrows.
The Red-breasted Sapsucker is quite a beautiful sight with its red head and breast. They typically are quieter and easier to miss. They drill small rows of horizontal sapholes in living trees. Besides eating the sap, insects are attracted to these holes. Other birds and butterflies are attracted to these "restaurants" created by this woodpecker.
The Lewis's Woodpecker is quite a surprise to see! It is seldom seen in our mountains. It is an irruptive migrant which means that it migrates to other areas in response to the climate or food sources available. Besides consuming acorns, it captures flying insects from its perch on a snag. These standing dead trees are important for their hunting technique.This is one of the reasons it is attracted to previously burned forests. They usually do not excavate their own nest cavity relying on natural occurring holes in trees or previously used nest sites.
Next time you head into the forest, Try to spot a woodpecker. Start out listening for drilling on the tree . When you find one, spend some time observing its behavior. Now that breeding is going on, you may even get lucky and spot a busy parent feeding its nestlings. If the woodpecker or any other bird senses you are too close to the nest, back off since it will delay going to its hungry offspring to avoid detection.
Happy Birding! Robin