A Good Day for Woodpeckers

When I first stepped out the door this morning, I startled a Pileated Woodpecker on one of the oaks in the yard. It flew to the edge of the woods, where I could just barely see its dull black back and flaming red crest. It called a string of loud cuk-cuk-cuks and flew a short distance to another tree, still just barely in sight. After watching for a few minutes – and hearing hard thwacks on a dead pine, and another burst of cuk-cuk-cuks – I was pretty sure there were two Pileated Woodpeckers, one closer, the other a little further away.

A short while later in a low, wooded area near one of the creeks, I heard the strong, emphatic peenk of a Hairy Woodpecker, repeated several times, and found it working on the trunk of a broken-off dead pine tree. Handsome and tall-looking with its long, straight bill, erect posture and striking black and white pattern, the Hairy is the most reclusive woodpecker in our woods and seems to prefer the more deeply shaded, quiet areas, so it’s always worth stopping to watch for a while.

Both Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers were abundant and active this morning as almost always. For a while during the middle of the summer, Downies seemed to become very quiet and I saw and heard them less often, but lately they’ve been back out and calling again.

The larger Red-bellied Woodpecker – with its bright red cap, pale face and breast, and black and white back – is especially flashy and vocal, rattling or exchanging chuck-chuck calls. Two Red-bellied Woodpeckers this morning briefly confused me, though, when they made low, moaning flicka-flicka calls quite similar to those of a Northern Flicker – but I could see them clearly on a branch. This is not the first time I’ve heard them make this sound, though I have not found any description of its use by Red-bellied Woodpeckers.

A Northern Flicker, meanwhile, called out a loud, ringing kleer! from somewhere among the leaves in the top of a tall tulip poplar.

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