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A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens They breed in a variety of successional deciduous and mixed wood habitats, forest edges, riparian areas, and even urban neighbourhoods, orchards, and parks. In Ontario, birds breed between early May to early July, lay four to five white eggs, and raise a single brood. The cavity is typically located on the underside of a dead branch on a live or dead tree. Diet The Downy Woodpecker consumes approximately 75 percent animal matter and 25 percent plant matter. It forages for insects on the surface and shallow subsurface of tree branches and trunks by gleaning, probing, prying, tapping, and excavating. Foods include beetles, ants, caterpillars, acorns, berries, sap, and larvae from weed stem galls. Male (bottom) and female (top) Downy Woodpeckers — Photo: Terry Sohl Identification (14–17 centimetres) The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest and perhaps most familiar woodpecker in North America. It has a white belly and back, and black and white checked head, tail, and wings. Adult males have a red patch on the back of the head which females lack, while juveniles have a red forehead. It is distinguished from the Hairy Woodpecker by its smaller body size and bill, and black barring on the white outer tail feathers. Conservation Status The Downy Woodpecker is widespread and common throughout its range, owing to its broad habitat tolerances. It is equally at home in urban woodlots or wilderness forests and is readily attracted to backyard feeders. Overall populations are generally stable or slightly increasing. Breeding Biology Downy’s are year-round residents coast to coast; from the tree line in Canada and Alaska to southern Florida and California. Management Guidelines Due to its preference for open woodlots and early second growth habitats, the Downy Woodpecker benefits from thinning practices. However, extensive clearing or intensive, even-aged practices are detrimental to Downy populations because of the resulting loss in suitable nest trees. As the smallest North American woodpecker, the Downy can drill cavities in dead trees or limbs that measure as little as 10 centimetres around. This means that it can live in a wider range of habitat than larger woodpeckers, which require bigger trees in which to create their nests. Optimal forest habitat has a basal area of 10 to 20 m 2 /hectares where a collection of existing cavity trees, snags and lower quality trees are retained. How to Find The Downy Woodpecker is a common visitor to back-yard birdfeeders, but it may also be found in urban treed areas and open woodlots. Listen for its loud descending whinny and its sharp pik call note. Did you know? • The male and female excavate a nesting cavity together over the course of seven to 20 days. • The male is in charge of incubating and brooding at night and is primarily responsible for keeping the cavity sanitary. • This species may forage next to Pileated Woodpeckers or follow nuthatches to steal missed or stashed foods. • Diet and foraging techniques vary with season and sex. Sexes may stay in the same areas in winter, but they divide up where they look for food. Males tend to forage more on smaller branches, females more on larger branches and trunks of trees. 106 Bird Species Accounts

Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus Conservation Status A common and widespread forest-interior species, the Hairy Woodpecker is associated with mature forests and generally avoids agricultural and urban areas. In Ontario, the largest densities occur in the southern shield, where forest cover is extensive. Both the Ontario atlas and BBS data show population increases. Breeding Biology Hairy Woodpeckers occur in forests across North and Central America from the near northern limit of the boreal forest in Canada, south to Panama. They typically nest in large tracts of mature deciduous or mixed forests, excavating a new nest each year. Nests are often in the trunk of live, large-diameter trees with diseases such as fungal heart rot. In Ontario, Hairy’s breed between late April and July, lay four white eggs, and raise a single brood. Diet Hairy Woodpeckers feed primarily on insects located on the bark surface and subsurface by chipping and chiselling into the tree. To a lesser extent, they feed on a variety of fruits and seeds. Management Guidelines Hairy Woodpeckers decline in areas suffering a loss and fragmentation of mature forest habitat. Since this species depends on large tracts of mature forest, intense forestry practices such as diameter-limit and clear cutting fail to provide suitable habitat, even where snags are retained. Large forest areas that are left uncut will provide the best breeding habitat for Hairy Woodpeckers. That said, this species appears resilient to selection harvesting when silvicultural and habitat guidelines are adhered to, since these retain suitable densities of declining cavity trees. How to find Hairy Woodpeckers can be wary of people, and are less commonly seen at feeders than the Downy. You are most likely to spot one in a mature forest in the early spring when they are most vocal. Listen for the “peek” call and their repeated, emphatic “whinny” or rattle. Male Hairy Woodpecker — Photo: Jeff Nadler Identification (24 centimetres) The Hairy Woodpecker is the most widespread woodpecker in North America. This medium-sized bird has a white back and belly, black wings with white spots, two white stripes on the head, and a long thick bill. Males have a red patch on the back of their head, which females lack. Away from feeders, the Hairy Woodpecker is shy, and prefers mature forests. Did you know? • Some Hairy Woodpeckers will remain paired year-round, although pairs are typically formed each spring. • The similar looking Hairy and Downy woodpeckers occur together throughout most of their ranges. The Downy Woodpecker uses smaller branches, while the Hairy tends to spend more time on the trunk. It was originally thought that the larger Hairy Woodpecker excluded the smaller Downy from more productive foraging spots, but it appears that just the reverse is true. Bird Species Accounts 107

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