A Black-backed Woodpecker in Algonquin Provincial Park
A Black-backed woodpecker in Algonquin Provincial Park
On one of our winter excursions, Bob and I drove to Algonquin Provincial Park , in Ontario, where we got to see a Black-backed Woodpecker when hiking along the Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail.
Late Saturday afternoon, beneath a heavy, overcast sky, Bob and I set out on the short 1.5 kilometer loop that guides visitors through two typical northern spruce bogs.
A brisk north wind buffeted us as we crossed one of the many boardwalk sections of the trail. There was no protection from the elements on that exposed expanse of the bog,
whereas, the thick stands of spruce trees provided a great windbreak once we left the open area of the bog behind.
A short distance from the parking lot, the park’s staff have erected a bird feeder which is highly popular with various species of birds. When Bob and I first approached the feeding station, a female Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) was already engaged in pecking bits of suet from within the wire cage.
Seeing no other birds of note at that time, we continued along the trail in search of the Black-backed Woodpecker that had been reported at that location in recent days. The trail conditions were excellent…hard-packed from repeated use.
It was Bob who first spotted the bird on the side of a tree trunk. Black-backed Woodpeckers prefer coniferous woodlands and burned areas with standing dead trees. I suppose that is why this particular bird is wintering on the fringes of a spruce bog.
Black-backed Woodpeckers are often detected by their foraging taps, bark prying, and drumming.
In this video that Bob filmed, you get a great chance to both see and also hear the woodpecker drumming away on the tree.
Black-backed Woodpeckers are comparable in size to the Hairy Woodpecker, between 9-10 inches in length.
This female exhibits the heavily black and white barred flanks of the species, as well as the broad white stripe below the eye. A male Black-Backed Woodpecker would have a yellow crown.
Its unmistakeable solid black back distinguishes this woodpecker from the Northern Three-toed Woodpecker. In some light, the black back can take on a bluish tinge.
This angle reveals the white belly of the woodpecker.
Three instead of four toes distinguishes the Black-backed Woodpecker from other woodpeckers except the aptly named Northern Three-toed Woodpecker.
Black-backed Woodpeckers are known for following outbreaks of wood-boring beetles. I wonder if that is what this female is delving for deep in the wood of this tree trunk. This picture shows clearly the white throat, chest and belly, and also how the woodpecker braces itself against the tree using its two tail feathers.
After spending about 45 minutes taking pictures of the woodpecker and its whereabouts, Bob and I continued along the trail wondering what other surprises would be in store for us.
Lots of evidence was visible where other animals had been moving about the forest and the bog, including rabbit and fox tracks. We had no luck, however, spotting the pine marten that lives there.
Black-backed Woodpeckers are alternately referred to as Arctic Three-toed Woodpeckers. They are particularly scarce in conifer forests so we were very lucky to see this unique bird.
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