Saturday, 10 March 2018

A Spruce Tree's Makeover

A good seventy years ago, my parents planted a small windbreak of pine and spruce trees close to our farmhouse. One of the white spruce trees is now a healthy looking specimen measuring five feet in circumference at my shoulder height. It's life expectancy is 200 years. Maybe not as long now. A pair of Pileated Woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) have given it a dramatic makeover.

Large square holes resemble nesting cavities in the making.

On three sides of this tree, a half dozen deep holes were excavated.

Wounded deeply into the heartwood, spruce gum will surely flow.

Wood chips on the ground clued me to look further up.

 The mystery is why have this pair of pterodactyl look-alikes selected this particular tree? Our bush lot contains hundreds of dead trees that would be easier to excavate and much more private than this one located so close to the house. Are these young birds just practicing their carpentry skills?

Even if they don't follow through with nesting, in years to come other species will surely find the starter homes of interest.

The female Pileated Woodpecker ruffles her feathers as she suns on a spruce tree.

The wary male foraging on an elderly soft maple tree.


  1. What I have read, is that they don't hurt the trees, so much as get the bugs out. We have trees with huge holes. Hard to say... good luck!

  2. I think they just enjoy the drumming sometimes. They will do it to the new telephone poles that have been treated so there are no insects in them. Hopefully, they haven't damaged the tree too much but boy, those are big holes!

  3. Those aren't potential nest cavities, the pileated woodpeckers are seeking carpenter ants. The ants' galleries can be seen the depths of the holes in the first two photos. The entrances to pileated woodpeckers' nest cavities are round; the cavities are usually created in dead trees or the dead tops of trees that are still alive below.

    1. Carpenter ants?! Thanks for your insight, Woody. I'll look for those ant galleries from now on. Also for excavation shapes. I much appreciate the info and will of course keep reading your excellent reports in 'Forest And Field'.


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