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The Pied Woodpecker

Posted in Animals, Nature on Saturday, 18 August 2007

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Pied Woodpecker (illustration, art, picture)

If you take a walk in the woods and keep very quiet, you may be able to eavesdrop on a strange and secret conversation. As you pause among the trees, you may hear a tapping sound made so rapidly that it seems like a roll of drums. This will be the Pied Woodpecker, or Greater Spotted Woodpecker as it is also known, communicating with another woodpecker, who may be a considerable distance away. This bush telegraph is worked by the bird’s striking the trunk of a tree with its beak with great rapidity.

This shy bird also uses its beak to chisel out a nest hole. But then comes trouble. As often as not, once the hole is completed it will be taken over by starlings. And the poor woodpecker has to go away and make another hole somewhere else. Because of this, it is often late in June before the hen can begin bringing up her family.

Grubs and woodboring insects make up the food of these birds, who dig out the wood with their beaks or extract the insects with their extremely long tongues. In winter, they rely on nuts, acorns, berries and pine cone seeds to augment their diet when insects are harder to find. At this time, you may attract them to a bird table with pieces of cheese or a large bone. They will hammer vigorously at the bone with their powerful beaks to get at the marrow inside.

Pied woodpeckers are black and white birds about the size of a blackbird, with a patch of scarlet on their undersides. The males and young birds also have a red patch on the nape of the neck. Britain also has two other members of this bird family. These are the Green Woodpecker and the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

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