A few days ago, I was outside and heard a loud knocking sound. It seemed to be coming from somewhere above me. I glanced around and saw the shadowy outline of a bird clinging to the side of a large tree and hammering it with its beak. I estimated the bird to be the size of a mallard duck.
I peered closer and my heart fluttered when I realized it was a pileated woodpecker … in Onsted, Michigan! I grew up in southeastern Michigan and never came across one, unless I was up north, past Grayling at least!
I Had to Investigate Further
The next day, I talked to the owner of the tree and told him what I had witnessed.
“Is that what made that mess? I was wondering what kind of animal would do that!” he said.
I stared at him, confused.
“Take a look,” he said, gesturing to his backyard.
Curious, I trampled across his lawn towards the tree the woodpecker had been pounding on. As I got closer, I noticed the lawn was littered with chunks of wood and bark, as if someone had sprinkled mulch atop the grass.
“Wow,” I murmured. Then, my eyes ran up the tree until they landed on a freshly made hole in the trunk. No … it was more than a hole. It looked like a gaping wound at least six inches tall and four inches wide.
Do Woodpeckers Kill Trees?
I was worried the woodpecker may have killed the tree with its overzealous wood carving.
According to an article by The Masked Biologist, woodpeckers typically don’t harm trees unless there is something wrong with the tree already. They don’t eat the wood or bark, what they are after is wood-boring insects and larvae. For instance, if a tree is infested with carpenter ants, a woodpecker may hammer holes in the trunk and feast on its favorite treat. Or, if a woodpecker is working on peeling the bark off of an ash tree during the winter months, it’s probably infested with emerald ash borers.
Community foresters and DNR parks managers use woodpeckers as an early warning system to prioritize ash trees for removal before they can fall on someone. Woodpeckers are one of the most important biological control methods of EAB (emerald ash borer) in North America and the most important native predator. They have been observed to remove up to 95% of EAB larvae in some trees. This is helpful as it lowers the number of adult pests that will emerge from these trees, or any infested trees, in the spring to mate and lay the next generation of eggs. ~ The Masked Biologist
I’m on the Lookout
I haven’t seen my feathered friend since our first meeting a few days ago. He must of just been passing through. I hope he comes back soon, if only for a visit to Onsted. I bet I will hear him before I see him!