Sunday Showcase: Black-backed Woodpecker

The highlight of the 2013 New Year’s Day Bird Count in Fish Creek Park was the rediscovery of a Black-backed Woodpecker, first reported in the area on December 19, 2012. These birds are seldom seen in the Calgary region – I believe it is at least five years since the last one was seen inside the city. On the afternoon of January 1st, I went to the Marshall Springs area to look for it. Luckily for me, Ursula Krol, who had found it in the morning , had returned and found it again.

Photos by Bob Lefebvre

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7 thoughts on “Sunday Showcase: Black-backed Woodpecker

  1. Wow Bob! That has been one very busy woodpecker! Obviously there is an abundance in effort to fill its pallet. I wonder. With all that bark being stripped off and the tree exposed, will the tree die as a result? You should mark that tree and see if one day you don’t find a Black-backed woodpecker nesting in it.

    • These woodpeckers, and the closely related American Three-toed Woodpecker (which has also been seen in these woods, but not this year) both feed on trees that are already dead or nearly dead. When the spruce dies it gives off a chemical which attracts wood-boring beetles; the woodpeckers flake off the bark to get at the larvae. The trees there are dying because of the new stormwater ponds installed above the woods in Marshall Springs. Runoff has saturated the ground with water in the area and it is now too wet of a habitat for spruce trees. Both woodpeckers most often drill a nest hole in a dead or dying spruce or deciduous tree, but they don’t kill the tree.

      • Fascinating Bob! It is marvelous how nature has a way of taking care of itself. Sad for the trees though as they do look like wonderful aged trees.

  2. Very nice photos of a top bird! Re it’s five year rarity: One was seen in Griffiths Woods over the winter of 2010-11; I went there and saw it after its discovery had been announced by other birders. Alas I don’t have my notebook with me to give you the exact date.

    • I forgot about that one, probably because I didn’t see it. Also, I always think of that park as being outside the city, but it’s inside the city limits.

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