Ian’s Bird of the Week – Crimson-crested Woodpecker ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter – 5/29/11
Those of you who have been on the list for a few years might remember from earlier posts that I’ve led a woodpecker-deprived existence, having lived first in Ireland and since then in Australia. Woody Woodpecker captured my imagination at an early age and I’ve been fascinated with woodpeckers ever since.
I was updating the woodpecker galleries on the website http://www.birdway.com.au/picidae/index.htm and this one made me laugh, so I though I’d share it with you. In the first photo it looks as if it’s staring in guilty shock at the tree and saying “Whoops! (or something stronger) Did I do that?” The second photo follows the same theme with a puzzled “Where did that tree go?” If you can think of better captions, please share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll publish the best one next week.
The Crimson-crested Woodpecker (Campephilus melanoleucos) is 36cm/14in in length and a close relative of the larger (at least 48cm/19in) and legendary, maybe-extinct-maybe-not Ivory-billed Woodpecker of the southern USA (Campephilus principalis) about which there was so much excitement in 2004-5. The Crimson-crested is happily quite common with a wide range in northern South America. Campephilus incidentally means ‘grub loving’ as this group of woodpeckers finds the larvae of wood-boring beetles to their liking.
I photographed this Crimson-crested Woodpecker in 2005 from the dug-out canoe in the third photo, when staying at a lodge called Sani on the Rio Napo, a tributary of the Amazon, in eastern Ecuador. The lodge was on an oxbow lake away from the main river and the canoes, being very quiet, were ideal for bird watching though using a heavy (and expensive) 500mm lens in the canoe took some practice, not to mention recklessness.
Ireland happily is no longer a woodpecker-free zone as the Greater-spotted Woodpecker is in the process of colonising the country, after a big increase in the population in Britain, with successful breeding being report in Co. Down since 2005, Co. Wicklow since 2009 and Co. Wexford since 2010. See http://wlx.bright-server.com/do/ecco.py/view_item?listid=1&listcatid=1075&listitemid=8021&live=0 . We might have to wait a bit longer, though, for any Asian woodpeckers to come island-hopping across the Wallace line to Australia and eucalyptus mightn’t suit them.
I’ve started suppling photos of Australian birds to Guy Gibbon for a multimedia version of Pizzey and Knight for PCs and mobiles and I’ve also been given the task of sourcing photos that I can’t supply (both species and plumages). If you are interested, or know anyone who might be, I’d like to hear from you email@example.com . Have a look at this News item on the website http://www.birdway.com.au/#aus_photos which has a link to the list of initially required species http://www.birdway.com.au/pdfs/wanted_species.pdf and links to similar publications by Guy covering British-Irish and Southern African birds.
Woody Woodpecker was also a favorite of mine. Here in the U. S., we have the Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), which seems to be quite similar to this Crimson-crested. Pileated adults are (40 to 49 centimetres (16 to 19 in) long; 250 to 350 grams (8.8 to 12 oz) mass) are mainly black with a red crest and a white line down the sides of the throat. That compares to the 36cm/14in of the Crimson-crested. Apparently the Pileated is larger and in a different genus. There are 225 woodpeckers world-wide. The Piciformes Order has not only Woodpeckers – Picidae Family, but also eight other families.
The trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted; Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house. (Psalms 104:16-17 KJV)