April 5, 2011

Laughter from the woods: woodpeckers, flickers, and a nuthatch


April brings an array of strange laughing, purring, and nose-honking from deep within the hard wood forests of New England. This assortment of sounds can be attributed to three of the largest woodpeckers that hammer out their summers here in New England and the breeding song of the White-breasted nuthatch. Over the next week the Daily Bird New England will illuminate the funny sounds of four species: Pileated woodpecker, Northern flicker, Red-bellied woodpecker, and the breeding call of the White-breasted nuthatch.

Stalking the Ghost Bird: The Elusive Ivory-Billed Woodpecker in LouisianaWoody woodpecker can’t do justice to the largest of these four birds, the Pileated woodpecker. Like a living dinosaur the Pileated woodpecker flies on huge, black and white wings and knocks oval holes into large, hard wood trees across New England. Most closely related to the extinct(?)  Ivory-billed woodpecker, these red-headed “good god birds” have the wing span of a crow and can be heard giving their echoing “laugh” or slow woodblock hammering from over a mile away. To find a Pileated is always a hunt. They have larger breeding grounds than most other songbirds and occupy larger tracts of land. Look for the characteristic square or oblong nest hole of the Pileated as well as torn up wood at the base of a tree as Pileateds are the only woodpeckers known to stand on the ground while searching for insects under the bark of a tree.

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is an educator, bird watcher, and writer fascinated by the intersections of place, people, nature, and culture. He works for Mass Audubon and lives in the heart of Massachusetts. For questions or comments please contact: alexanderjosephdunn@gmail.com

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