Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Rare & Wonderful Sighting

Wow! The Potomac Primaries and now this!

The wooded ridgeline behind the Kiko's House mountain hideaway has been snow covered for most of the winter and got a few inches more yesterday. Which made the two brilliant red blurs that I caught out of the corner of my eye while reading stand out even more.
The red blurs were the head crests of two pileated woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus), probably a mating pair, who were working the trees on the ridgeline for insects, including beetle larvae and carpenter ants, which are their favorites.
Pileateds are by far the largest American woodpecker and the male was nearly 20 inches from his beak to the end of his tail. My excitement derives from the fact that while pileateds are not rare, they are extremely shy and seldom seen except for perhaps a fleeting glance from an automobile.
If you've never seen pileateds in the wild, let alone had the opportunity to study them at length through field glasses as I did yesterday, you've seen their television counterpart -- Woody Woodpecker, a cartoon character who was modeled on the pileated.

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