Monday, March 31, 2008
.....but without her mate. The female pileated woodpecker (March 26 post) came back Sunday for a brief visit to one of the suet feeders, but the male wasn't with her. What does this mean? Well, it probably means that they are nesting, but taking turns on the eggs. (In this photo, taken in January, the male is on the right. He has red moustaches along the side of his face, but they're hard to see here.)
My reference book of choice, for all questions relating to woodpeckers, is Woodpeckers of North America, by Frances Backhouse (Firefly, 2005). According to Backhouse, pileated woodpeckers mate for life and stay close together all year long in their permanent territory. When they nest, they excavate a cavity in a mature tree and the female lays about 4 eggs. The parents take turns on the nest; they may trade off several times a day, but the males always stay on the nest at night. Woodpecker chicks hatch in 10-14 days. They're naked, blind and pretty helpless, but they double their weight in 24-48 hours. (No wonder it takes both parents to keep them fed!) Pileated chicks leave the nest in about 27 days. After the nesting season is over, those old holes are still useful--the woodpeckers don't reuse them, but about 38 species of birds and animals do.
I've filled the suet feeder favored by the pileateds with peanut & berry-flavored suet, everybody's favorite. I hope someday they'll bring the kids by for dinner. Until then, I'm studying my book, a gift from my own mate-4-life, and enjoying their visits.