NeilyWorld  Birding Ottawa - Woodpecker Workings


        The Black-backed and the less common Three-toed Woodpecker can both be found here most winters. When you are in an area of conifers, watch carefully for trees that have been freshly debarked and listen for slow, patient tapping. Bark chips on new snow would indicate a recent visit, check the other side of the tree.
        Porcupines are also common in the area, giving rise to possible confusion regarding debarked trees. These spiny mammals devour the bark and cambium completely from mostly smaller branches of healthy trees leaving the light coloured wood beneath showing. They often strip each small branch on a limb. The woodpeckers prefer dead or dying conifers, mostly trunks or adjacent larger branches. They scale away the loose outer bark to expose insects, leaving lightened areas often with a reddish brown tinge (not to be confused with the natural shedding of bark in some pines). Swamps along the road in conifer areas provide ample opportunity to scan wide areas for the dead and dying trees favored by these woodpeckers. Note the differences in the two photos on the right. The woodpecker workings are a warm brown colour spread evenly over the trunk, while the porcupine workings are much lighter and often very patchy.

Woodpecker workings    Porcupine workings

Woodpecker workings               ... and Porcupine workings.

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Copyright 2000 - 2009     Larry E. Neily
Last update:  October 25, 2009