How I Discovered the Pileated Woodpecker

It all started this past week when I discovered damage to the mirror on the passenger side of my car. It looked like someone had either come along and punched it or shot at it with a BB gun. We have a couple of kids in my neighborhood that I suspected of causing the damage, but I never said anything to their parents.  As much as it irked me, I let it go.

I am glad that I didn’t say anything because a few days later, I discovered that no one was responsible for the damage to my mirror. At least not a human being. The culprit was actually surprising.

This is the damage to my mirror. It’s cracked pretty good and even missing pieces. What was more impressive is that the mirror itself was pushed in and down and I had to readjust it back it its original position.

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I am a member of an app called Next Door. Next door is a social networking tool that connects you with people from your own neighborhood. There are several categories or topics to chose from.  Of these many topics, one of them is “Crime”.

I saw a post made by a neighbor about vandalism to his vehicle. He posted a photograph of his own side mirror that had been damaged and he wanted to know if anyone else had their vehicles vandalized.  The damage to his mirror looked very similar to mine.

Someone else piped up and said that they had witnessed a Pileated Woodpecker attacking its own image in the side mirror of their truck. They went outside and chased it away but it was too late, they too had damage.  They explained that the birds were aggressive towards other males during mating season, which was now. The bird believed it was fighting another male.

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The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker that lives in our area of northern Indiana. They measure roughly 16  inches from head to tail and have a wingspan of almost 29 inches. They are usually recognized by the flaming red crest on their head. The Pileated Woodpecker is the second largest woodpecker in North America, second to the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, which is nearly extinct.

The Ivory Billed Woodpecker species is listed as critically endangered and possibly extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The American Birding Association lists the Ivory Billed Woodpecker as a class 6 species, a category it defines as “definitely or probably extinct”

I’m an optimist.

As the day went on more and more neighbors were popping in with their own experience. They had either seen the bird or had damage to their own vehicle too.  Neighbors in the know suggested putting grocery bags over the mirrors or fold them in to avoid attacks.

Later in the week, the St. Joseph County Parks had posted a photo to their Facebook of a tree that had been pecked pretty good by a Pileated Woodpecker. They explained that they will excavate deep into the wood of dead trees to eat nests of carpenter ants.

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Photo courtesy of Audubon.com

Quite honestly, as much as I love nature, animals and the outdoors, I had never paid much attention to the woodpeckers and the  different varieties. What an interesting way for me to discover them.

While I haven’t been lucky enough to actually see the one that’s terrorizing local vehicle owners, I have heard him. He’s been hanging out somewhere nearby as I’ve heard him several times in the mornings.

They really are beautiful. To learn more about the Pileated Woodpecker, visit Adubon.com

 

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