Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Pileated Woodpecker Scaling
There has been much recent discussion about Pileated Woodpecker bark scaling and how to tell it from Ivory-billed Woodpecker scaling, if Ivory-billed Woodpeckers exist. We had an opportunity this morning at the Sanibel Lighthouse park to follow a Pileated Woodpecker. We watched the female in the above photos work over some Mangrove Trees, partially dead from damage done by Hurricane Charley in 2004. She whacked off chunks of bark and at one point we saw a fairly large chunk fall after she struck repeated blows. Later we went to some of the areas she had scaled and felt the bark and found it was tightly adhered to the tree. It was hard for us to pull any off. One of the observations made by Geoff Hill in his Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Choctawhatchee River research site, is that the bark he has seen scaled there is fairly tightly adhered to the trees. We had visited the Choctawhatchee River Basin recently and seen multiple evidence of scaling, some of quite massively chisled. In many cases there were large holes of cerambycid beetles under the scaling. We did not see those type of holes in this case.
One of the great things about digital photography is that you see amazing things when you blow up your photos. Our photos showed the long tongue of this female Pileated that tapers at the tip. How cool is that. Reminds us of seeing the tongues of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds when we watched through our binos as they perched near our feeders in NH. In the Birds of North America Pileated Woodpecker account written by Evelyn L. Bull and Jerome A. Jackson, it says the Pileated, "uses long, extensible, pointed tongue with barbs and sticky saliva to catch and extract ants from tunnels." This female was using her long tongue to poke into the sides of the scaled areas. Intriguing. At one point, we saw some tiny ants going under the bark and wondered if that was what she was getting. What an unusual opportunity we had to witness up-close-and-personal the feeding techniques of this female Pileated Woodpecker. Thank you digital camera and woodpecker.
Photos © Lillian Stokes, 2007