Saturday, February 26, 2011

Studies of the Wildlife of Cedar Key: Birds: Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker (Female)
Female Pileated Woodpecker
[Sorry for the poor photos, as I only use my own, and these birds have been difficult for me to capture, being characteristically shy.]

Pileated Woodpecker Dryocopus pileatus: This woodpecker is quite large ... as big as a crow. And, except for woodpeckers that may be extinct (Imperial Woodpecker and the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker), they are the largest woodpeckers in North America.

The Pileated Woodpecker is black with white stripes that run from across its face down its neck. They also have a prominent and pointed red crest. One can even distinguish this woodpecker from other birds when they fly because they have revealing white underwing linings contrasting with black flight feathers." (Alden) The male has a red mustache and forehead, while the female has a black mustache and forehead.

Pileated Woodpecker (Male)
Male Pileated Woodpecker

Dr. Gary Parker says:

Gary Parker, Strange Case of the Woodpecker (VHS) CreationistThe woodpecker is a marvel of interdependent parts or “compound traits”—traits that depend on one another for any to have functional value. When a woodpecker slams its head into a tree, the deceleration experienced is many times gravity. The nerve and muscle coordination must produce a dead-on hit; a slip to one side or the other could virtually wrench the cover off the brain! The eyelids snap shut when the beak strikes its target. Some scientists say that’s to keep wood chips out of the eyes; others say it’s to keep the eyeballs from popping out of their sockets! Both may be right!
Those "interdependent parts" include "a tough bill, heavy-duty skull, and shock-absorbing tissue between the two." (Parker)

These woodpeckers will live in towns, but mostly live in mature forests, in tall, often dead, trees, and are usually a resident of mainland Florida, so they are usually seen in the more mature woods of the Keys, or just off the Keys in the mainland areas, if seen at all. The Pileateds can often be heard more than seen, as they are drumming to make a home, find insects, or declare their territory is quite loud, but they can be quite shy.

They roost in cavities at night, usually one per hole. For easy escape from predators, they'll often roost in trees with multiple holes. Their predators in the Cedar Key area include, but are not limited to, the Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, Squirrels, and Gray Fox.

They are monogamous (mate for life), and they, together, excavate a new nest cavity every year ... leaving their old nests to other animals. Their clutch size is one to six eggs, averaging around four eggs, which both take turns incubating. Both parents also feed their young by regurgitation. Fledgling usually happens in about 24-30 days, but the fledglings usually stay with their parents for several months, learning to acquire food. These young birds will finally leave around until September, and will acquire their own territories and nest in the spring. (Pileated...)

Works Cited:

Alden, Peter. "Pileated Woodpecker." National Audubon Society Field Guide to Florida. New York: Knopf, 1998. 338. Print.

Farrand, Jr., John. "Woodpeckers." National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region. By John Bull. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. c1997. 576-77. Print.

Parker, Ed.D., Gary. "Adaptation and Ecology: the Marvelous Fit of Organisms to Their Environment." Answers in Genesis. Web. 26 Feb. 2011.

Pileated Woodpecker Central. Web. 26 Feb. 2011.

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