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~ The Pileated Woodpecker ~

The silent flight of the giant Pileated Woodpecker high in the canopy is a sight to behold. Requiring trees with a 30cm at breast height for its survival, it is rarely seen in newer suburbs.

You can help ensure the continued survival of this infrequent visitor in many ways.

Avoid the use of pesticides
Woodpeckers eat bugs, especially large, black carpenter ants. There exists and invasive, destructive foreign species, the Asian Longhorned Beetle, that has made its way North and reached Canada, where it attacks maples. What is bad news for maple syrup producers and the hardwood industry is good news for the pileated woodpecker.

Tree Selection
Trees are are best for woodpeckers are those that are most susceptible to attack by bark beetles and wood borers. The Green (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) or White (Fraxinus americana)Ash are inhabited by the following long and impressive list of woodpecker snacks: eastern ash bark beetle, western ash bark beetle, Criddle's bark beetle, lilac/ash borer, banded ash clearwing, oak clearving, carpenterworm, leopard moth, emerald ash border, redheaded ash borer, banded ash border, flatheaded appletree borer and Pemphredon wasps. The emerald ash borer, an introduced species, is reproducing so rapidly that many birders have noticed increased activity around ash trees and pileated woodpecker numbers in general. With the exception of the emerald ash borer, whose effect can be fatal over time, the pests rarely make obvious damage or cripple the tree to any significant extent. This tree grows quickly and can be trained to grow more in height than in width.

The Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), and other maples are hosts to the flathead appletree borer, pole borer, American plum borer, leopard moth, carpenterworms and pigeon tremex; and newly, the Asian Longhorn Beetle. The Sugar Maple in particular has spectacular multi-colored fall coloring ranging from pure yellow to glowing red at once on a single tree.

Cultivate Snags
If you are fortunate enough to have a tree with diameter at breast heigh in excess of 30cm, that is dying, rotting, hollowing or simply no longer want, do not cut it down! Lateral branches may be trimmed off, leaving the trunk intact. A large, unhealthy snag guarantees repeated visits by healthy woodpeckers of all sizes.

Woodpecker Houses
If you are not delighted by the thought of a rotting trunk on your yard, consider a Woodpecker House. These are available in different size, suitable for the downy, hairy and pileated woodpeckers.

Suet Feeders
It's very easy to put out a suet feeder and it's very easy to take it away forever after seeing squirrels finishing a whole cake in 23 minutes, with the asistance of a mob of hundreds of hungry European starlings. Upside-down suet feeders are available if you wish to see squirrels and starling consume an entire block of suet within 23 minutes, upside-down like that's what they were born to do. The "Suet Sandwich" is a very different way to dispense suet. It consists of two layers of natural bark with the suet sandwiched in-between. Only woodpeckers, with their surprinsingly long tongues, can reach the food. The bark provides an ideal landing surface, and the size of the Suet Sandwich will please all woopeckers from the tiny downy to the large pileated.

Pileated Woodpecker Links

Pileated Woodpecker Central - Photographs and giftware featuring pileated woodpeckers by Barret Monchka..
USGS - Information on the pileated woodpecker by the US Geological Survey.
Familiar Birds - Jam-packed with information, highly recommended.
The Blue Jay's Garden - Canadian online source for the Suet Sandwich.
The Blue Jay's Garden - Canadian online source for the Woodpecker Housing and tips.
Michigan State University Extension - About the Emerald Ash Borer.
University of Vermont Entomology Research Laboratory - About the Asian Longhorn Beetle.

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