To begin with, a Pileated Woodpecker was the very first bird I saw for the entire year. Arriving at dawn in the Shannon Terrace parking lot of Fish Creek Provincial Park for our January 1st bird count, one of these crow-sized woodpeckers flew across the valley calling as it went. There have been more sightings since then, notably a pair of birds feeding at ground level by the bike path in Bebo Grove a short distance from our bird course group.
|Above: Pileated Woodpecker, Dryocopus pileatus, Bebo Grove, Fish Creek Provincial Park|
Below: Example of flight call from xeno-canto.org
On that January 1st bird count, even the Pileated wasn’t the woodpecker highlight of the day, as we found a Black-backed Woodpecker later in the morning. There had been some sightings earlier in the winter and we soon found tell-tale signs of the feeding activity of a three-toed woodpecker species. The three species in this group are specialist woodpeckers, needing mature coniferous forests with dead and dying trees, from which they meticulously peel the bark, searching for insect larvae. The resulting pile of fine bark shavings in the snow around the base of these trees is distinctive but sometimes finding the responsible bird is a little trickier. Eventually one of our group members spotted this beauty feeding high up on spruce trunk and we were able to watch it at work.
|Black-backed Woodpecker, Picoides arcticus, Marshall Springs, Fish Creek Provincial Park|
|Hairy Woodpecker, Picoides villosus, South Glenmore Park, Calgary. |
The red spot indicates that this is a male bird.
|Above: Downy Woodpecker, Picoides pubescens, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Calgary. |
No red spot on the head means this is a female.
Below: Example of call from xeno-canto.org
Four of Calgary’s woodpecker species on January 1st is a pretty good start to any birding year. I’ve seen Northern Flicker since then which leaves three more common Southern Alberta woodpeckers – American Three-toed, Red-naped Sapsucker, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – to turn up for the remainder of the year. Here’s to the year of the woodpecker!