An Avian Friendversary

Five years ago, Pileated Woodpeckers friended me.

Okay… strictly speaking, it’s been a one-way friendship: Me admiring some magnificent birds.

It began in April 2015. I was home every day, all day, recovering from surgery. I felt confined, not unlike today’s stay-put virus isolation. My sanity-saver was our expanse of sliding glass doors. They overlook a steep, wooded bluff that brings some trees’ crowns near eye-level, just yards away.

When I first noticed two woodpeckers pounding persistently, I assumed they were foraging. The tree they were pecking wore fungus on its trunk. There had to be insects under the bark.

A week later, I realized my error.

The birds weren’t eating. They were digging a deep hole. When finished, they took turns disappearing inside, for hours. Was it a nest, or just a roost? When I saw the birds carry fecal sacs from the tree, I had my answer.

I began filming when the cavity was nearly complete. My visual treat lasted until mid-June when the couple’s two offspring fledged. Afterward, I shared a series of long-ish videos documenting the story.

To mark this five-year avian friendversary, I thought I’d share a more compact retelling of the birds’ nesting cycle. You can picture me smiling broadly as I viewed hundreds of hours of video footage and stitched the best snippets together. Take a look:

I find it remarkable how fast the nestlings developed. Doesn’t the fledgling at the end of the video look exactly like his father? What a difference from just two weeks earlier, when the nestlings first appeared at their cavity door.

Mom and her nestlings on May 29.
Dad teases with food to encourage a nestling to fledge. June 12, a few hours before he leaped.

And like me, did you chuckle when the fledgling returned to his cavity and peered inside? That happened immediately after his first flight. Do you suppose he had second thoughts about leaving the nest?

Pileated Woodpeckers mate for life. They’re territorial, and they live about thirteen years. So, when I see them today, they’re probably the same pair that nested here in 2015. They drop by from time to time, sometimes hopping on what’s left of their old nest tree.

I owe these two friends a debt of gratitude. They ignited my passion for telling tales of creatures in my west Michigan wood. If you’d like to see their full story, my original, longer videos are still available on YouTube.

2 thoughts on “An Avian Friendversary”

  1. I so enjoyed this lovely story of your “friendship” with the woodpeckers. What a rare privilege, to be able to get such a rare glimpse (or several glimpses, actually) into their family life!

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