Hairy/Downy Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers at Oxtongue Lake
Hairy Woodpeckers are a common sight at Oxtongue Lake.
Early one autumn at Oxtongue Lake, near Algonquin Park, it was obvious that various birds were on the move given the changing season in Ontario. Among those heading south were flocks of Canada Geese.
Hairy Woodpeckers, on the other hand, remain year round in their habitat.
The female, with its long bill, was very busy foraging deep in the folds of bark on a white birch tree not far from my dad’s beach.
Meanwhile, its partner, a male Hairy Woodpecker, was busily searching for bugs and grubs among some of the logs along the shoreline. With the flash of red on the back of its head, the male Hairy Woodpecker really stands out against the grey tree trunk.
As I have seen so many times at Oxtongue, Hairy Woodpeckers just love to get in among fallen logs where they search high and low for a quick snack. With Bob and me standing slightly hidden behind a tree, this Hairy Woodpecker only interrupted his hunt for a couple of quick glances in our direction.
Hairy Woodpeckers are but one of many different types of Woodpeckers that can be seen here in the province of Ontario. Along with Hairy Woodpeckers, Ontario also is home to the Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Three-toed Woodpecker, Black-backed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker and the Pileated Woodpecker. To date, Bob and I have seen six out of these 10 different species of woodpeckers.
Recently, in the Rouge National Park near Toronto, Ontario, we were fortunate enough to see this Pileated Woodpecker, one of the largest North American woodpeckers living in our Great Lakes region.
Although rarely seen around peoples’ homes, Pileated Woodpeckers are known to come to backyard bird feeders during harsh winter conditions.
A Pileated Woodpecker makes quick business of a fallen or dead tree trunk when it is foraging for insects. Its preferred foods are carpenter ants and wood-boring beetle larvae, which actually are killing a lot of trees here in Ontario.
So it was great to watch this Pileated woodpecker work with such precision at locating and devouring harmful insects that pose a threat to our trees.
In our own backyard, a female Downy woodpecker is a regular visitor at the peanut silo feeder. This is one of the smaller sized woodpeckers in Ontario. But size aside, this small woodpecker has no problem defending its spot at the feeding station.
I am always amazed at just how relaxed this Downy woodpecker is in my backyard. She holds on tight with her little claws, stops to see what I am doing and then gets right back to the business at hand.
The Downy woodpecker’s plumage looks very much like that of a Hairy woodpecker.
In this video, the Downy woodpecker retrieves pieces of peanuts from the feeder, much like it would bore for insects in a tree.
On one occasion, a few years ago, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker visited a bug-infested tree in our neighbor’s backyard. We were able to observe his movements for about an hour before it flew away.
It is very common to see Northern Flickers at Oxtongue Lake. They, too, are members of the woodpecker family. Northern Flickers are one of the few woodpeckers that migrate, however, a couple of years ago, we had a Northern Flicker frequenting our Toronto bird feeder well into November. It is always exciting to see them return in the springtime, knowing that they will help curb the grub and ant population.
In this video, birdwatchers visiting from England spot a pair of Northern Flickers and a Ring-necked Pheasant in the community of Oxtongue Lake, Ontario.
Many woodpeckers, such as this Hairy Woodpecker, will scale a tree using their nimble feet in order to search for insects hiding in the crevices of the tree bark.
I was fascinated with the dainty claws on this male Hairy Woodpecker’s feet. Securely clinging to the tree, he was intent upon enlarging this hole in the bark by hammering at it with his beak. Unlike most birds, woodpeckers do not sing; they only make various types of noises. The number one way they communicate with each other is by tapping or hammering out various rhythms on things like tree limbs, but sometimes a tin roof is a good substitute!!
If the woodpecker were to enlarge this hole substantially by pecking at it, the resulting cavity could become the new home for a chickadee or a nuthatch in the springtime. So this little guy is sort of doing double duty: he is ridding the tree of insects and is creating a possible nesting site.
For more information about woodpeckers in North America, checkout: Cornell Lab Of Ornithology
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