Sunday, June 5, 2016

Piliated Woodpecker nesting along the Sammamish River

Credit, John Reinke

The bird you see is a pileated woodpecker, which is the largest woodpecker in North America.  It is close to the size of a crow.  This female is sticking its neck out of the nesting hole it and its mate has dug about 25 feet off the ground in a dying poplar tree.  You can tell it is a female by the fact that it has a black forehead above its beak, whereas in males, this area is red.  Both sexes have red crests and otherwise are mostly black.
Pileated woodpeckers are not very common in our area.  I have only seen one in Redmond during the previous 25 years I have lived here.  However, I spoke recently with a man who said that he sees one at his bird feeder frequently, and he has a friend who has had the same experience.  The Washington Department of Fish and Game is currently considering the pileated woodpecker as a candidate to be listed as an endangered species in our state.
I took this photograph in a stand of dead and dying poplars located along the Sammamish River Trail, about seven tenths of a mile north of the NE 90th Street Bridge.  The stand is located on the east side of the trail, right across from the rust-colored foot bridge that spans the river there. A friend saw a male and female in the same area.  
If you walk or bike up that way, you'll see that there are a number of holes that have been drilled high up in the poplars.  The pileated woodpecker nest hole is kind of around the back of one of these trees, so you are unlikely to spot it without a good deal of effort.  
However, you may well see a pair of red breasted sapsuckers that are nesting in a hole that faces the trail, about 40 feet up in the same tree.  A pair of flickers has a nest in another hole that faces the trail, located even higher in another dead poplar, one or two trees to the left of this one.  I have also occasionally seen a downy woodpecker foraging among these trees.
Happy Birding!
John Reinke

6 comments:

Bob Yoder said...

Hi John,

Thank you so much for sharing this photo and story!! You're photo is awesome. I love P. Woodpeckers! What an amazing "catch"! Keep em coming, PLEASE!

charscole said...

Thank you for your insight about the pileated woodpecker. We had a pileated woodpecker ripping away the bark of our large maple tree. We noticed him because he was making a huge mess and he himself was huge - definitely seemed bigger than a crow - about a foot and a half in length. We live next to parts of "Tosh Creek" and have massive amounts of wildlife on and around our property. This was about five years ago and wasn't the only time that we saw him in our yard. Wish we had taken a photo or video of him, but we didn't know that he was not a common sight.
Charlotte and Rob Cole

Anonymous said...

I saw a Piliated Woodpecker in my cul-de-sac near Grasslawn Park last week! It called as it sat in a nearby tree and then flew overhead (my non-birding neighbors were non-plussed). In 18 years, it's only the second or third time I have seen one in Redmond.

I have Downy Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers regularly at my suet feeder. The Red-Breasted Sapsucker also visits periodically (they are very tame, compared to the Flickers).

Bob Yoder said...

This feedback is so cool. Thanks for sharing! I'm definitely planning to hike into the Tosh Creek area now.

I posted this article on various Ed. Hill Facebook sites and learned many have seen them all over the neighborhood. Very interesting...

Gina Johnson said...

We live up on Union Hill and also host all kinds of wonderful wildlife on our property. Just saw our P Woodpecker this morning about 15 minutes ago! They are a big, beautiful bird!

GuyB said...

We have a pair of pileated woodpeckers that routinely feed at our suet feeder near Cottage Lake in Woodinville. The feeder is stuck to our dining room window with suction cups. It is pretty comical when the big guys arrive because they are really to big for such a small feeder. They can't really use their tail as a brace and they kind of wrap themselves around it. Their pecking echos throughout the house--bam, bam, bam--so you know when the woodpeckers are visiting!