Woodpeckers of the Boreal Forest

Downy woodpecker up close and personalPosted by Janet Plante

The variety within the different species of birds we see in our neck of the woods never ceases to amaze me. Take woodpeckers for instance. We regularly see Downys which is wonderful; however their larger cousins the Hairy Woodpeckers are not quite as welcome as they use our cedar house as part of their search for food. It is sometimes hard to tell the difference between the two but the Downy is smaller 15-18 cm (6 to 7 inches) and has a smaller beak, while the Hairy is 19-24 cm (7 ½ to 9 ½ inches).

downy woodpecker hanging on

It is a much rarer occurrence when we see the Pileated Woodpecker but it still happens on occasion. Because a pair of breeding Pileated Woodpeckers generally requires more than 40 hectares (almost 100 acres) of mature forest to forage, our sightings are uncommon. I was quite excited when I saw this one and immediately grabbed my camera and ran outside in sock feet. These are pretty large birds 41-48 cm (16 to 19 inches) and it was thrilling to see one so close.Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated woodpeckerAnother visitor that we have mixed feelings about is the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Not nearly as big at 18-20 cm (7 to 8 inches) they are impressive none the less. They too believe that good things come from pecking away at the cedar on our house. Obviously they haven’t yet discovered the absence of sap required to trap the insects they are mining for. Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-Shafted Northern FlickerThe one woodpecker that is the most welcome at our place is the Northern Flicker. These birds spend most of their time on the ground feeding on ants and other insects. Our ant population is more than enough to attract and maintain a large number of Northern Flickers so we would like to see more of them. We host two forms of the Northern Flicker in Alberta but the one we have up here is the Yellow-shafted Flicker.

Northern Yellow-Shafted Flicker in flight

Northern Yellow-Shafted FlickerLiving so close to the Boreal Forest Janet has an opportunity to photograph a variety of different bird species but this is not her only passion. Check out Janet’s Inspirational Pictures & Quotes to see more of her photography.

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One Response to Woodpeckers of the Boreal Forest

  1. Julie G. says:

    We have the same woodpeckers you featured in this wonderful post in our area. I did not know that Pileated Woodpeckers need so much acreage to forage. Fantastic photographs of beautiful woodpeckers!