Woodpeckers Are Doing Really Well

Pileated woodpecker, April 2012 (photo by Chuck Tague)
Pileated woodpecker (photo by Chuck Tague)

24 July 2017

Last week Pittsburgh Today published a brief article about ecosystem health in the Pittsburgh region.  One of their points caught my eye: Pileated woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) have made a big comeback in our area.

I’ve noticed this too.  During Pittsburgh’s 2016 Christmas Bird Count last December, many of us found pileated woodpeckers — so much so that Audubon’s summary of the count included this remark: “Pileated Woodpecker was reported at a higher than expected number.  48 individuals represents a new high count for Pittsburgh. ”

On the same day as Pittsburgh Today’s article, I also received an email from Tree Pittsburgh with news about a project this fall to replace ash trees lost to emerald ash borer (read more here.)

Without intending it, the topics are related.  My hunch is that we have more pileated woodpeckers in Pittsburgh because we have more under-the-bark insects and more dead and dying ash trees, suitable for nesting, since the emerald ash borer came to town 10 years ago.

Pileated woodpecker hole in dead white ash tree, Pennsylvania (photo by Kate St. John)
Pileated woodpecker hole in dead white ash tree, western Pennsylvania (photo by Kate St. John)

Woodpeckers are doing really well.  It’s the only bright spot in the emerald ash borer plague.

(photo credits: Pileated woodpecker by Chuck Tague.   Dead ash tree with pileated woodpecker hole by Kate St. John)

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