Monday, December 27, 2010

Pileated Woodpecker Pilfers Hackberries

The highlight of the Red Wing (Minnesota) Christmas Bird Count for Erika and me was this Pileated Woodpecker.  The bird teetered along the outer branches and twigs of a Hackberry tree.  The woodpecker acted like a tightrope walker, with both wings stretched out for balance. Notice that the bird's left foot is extended forward as the bird makes his way along the branch.
A novice tight rope walker.  Occasionally the bird slipped upside down, grabbing onto icy branches that were too narrow for obtaining a secure footing.
The Pileated daintily fed on Hackberry fruit, selecting one berry at a time.  Often the bird fed upside down as it stretched for a new morsel. 
We had never seen Pileated Woodpeckers picking fruit (perhaps because this species, unlike in Minnesota, is very rare where we lived in South Dakota.)  Bull and Jackson (1995) cite a study reporting that up to 27% of this woodpecker's diet is vegetable matter, including hackberries. Bull and Jackson (in the AOU's The Birds of North America) write little or nothing about Pileated Woodpeckers' fruit-eating behavior.  The authors do include, however, a line drawing of a woodpecker feeding on fruit.  The portrait depicts behavior similar to what we witnessed.

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