Woodpeckers vs. Tree Maintenance

April 29, 2012  •  1 Comment

Consult any arborist worth his salt, and he'll generally tell you that when maintaining a tree, you should prune crossing limbs and dead branches, at the very least. These items don't require any artistic talent -- just some basic observation. Look at a branch, and if it's dead, cut it off.

The problem I see with such a scheme is that a very important part of the environment gets excluded that way. Death is part of life and has a value. I suggest this value is not just a concept, but can be important to us.

To illustrate, I note that this year we seem to have more woodpeckers than normal. Is this related to the drought? I don't know, but I love having the woodpeckers around.

Red Bellied WoodpeckerRed-bellied Woodpecker Here is a picture of a red bellied woodpecker that has been hanging around the Buckley oak (often referred to locally as a Spanish oak) growing between my yard and my next door neighbor's yard.

I don't think I've ever seen a red bellied woodpecker prior to this year. Maybe I just haven't been observant enough. It's fun to have him around.

If you hear something that sounds like a squirrel barking, check to see if it really is a squirrel, or maybe it's a red bellied woodpecker. I find the calls to be similar, and more than once, I've thought a squirrel was scolding, when it was really this woodpecker.

Woodpeckers are creatures that depend upon death. Not just the death of the food they eat, but other death. They nest in the hollows of trees. These hollows are generally made in rotten wood. Why? Because it's easier to dig. If you had to make your home by bashing your head repeatedly into wood, you'd prefer it to be soft, wouldn't you?Red Bellied Woodpecker hunting borersRed Bellied Woodpecker

Dead wood is not only for their housing, though. Many species of woodpecker rely on grubs under the bark for sustenance. The branch of the tree may die, but the reason for this death may well be a meal for a beautiful bird.

Here you see the woodpecker probing under the bark of one of the tree's limbs for food. I'd thought of trimming off the dead branches from this tree, but if that means no more woodpeckers, I'd rather not. Besides, the tree is technically in my neighbor's yard.

Woodpeckers peck wood not just for building their homes and for finding food, they also do it for communication.

I've noticed that in our neighborhood, the red bellied woodpeckers like to pound on the horizontal pieces of the utility poles. I guess they're using the telephone poles for their wireless telecommunication.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker


Comments

1.Alisa kennedy(non-registered)
I love the woodpeckers. Whnever I hear that tell-tale screech or knocking, I always look up.
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